Can You Legally Drive If You Have Narcolepsy?
Safe Driving is not everybody’s cup of tea. It requires high mental as well as a physical presence. People with neurological conditions have difficulty in driving especially long-hours driving. Narcolepsy is a condition in which a person experiences involuntary sleep; this is a clear danger to himself and others while driving. Laws have been framed to allow these people, only when they are fit, to drive.
Can You Legally Drive If You Have Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder related to sleep. Patients suffering from narcolepsy experiences excessive day time sleep and also have a sudden sleep episode while doing any activity. In this condition, there is an abnormality in the sleep-wake cycle which is controlled by the brain. The patient may also have sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and cataplexy.
According to a survey done a long time back in the US, narcoleptics take a 10-20-minute nap every 2-3 hours throughout the day making long time driving a dangerous task1. Further, it has been estimated that almost 100,000 accidents are caused due to sleep driving however, it is difficult to estimate the number of accidents in which culprit was narcolepsy.
Driving with narcolepsy or other sleep disorders, unless they are effectively controlled, make the life of the driver as well as other people vulnerable. Because of this danger, laws are kept in place in almost all the countries, in a way or other, to grant a driving license. The applicant or driver should either self-report his condition or the condition is thoroughly evaluated by the Medical Advisory Board authorized by License Granting Authorities.
Different countries have different driving rules regarding driving with narcolepsy. Every state in the United States has its own process for granting a driving license, thus having different requirements for obtaining it. Some states require that the applicant should disclose that he had narcolepsy while other states did not have any such requirement2. Fortunately, most of the states in the United States do not have any strict rules for granting a driving license if you are suffering from sleep disorders such as narcolepsy or idiopathic hypersomnia.
Laws related to driving with the unsatisfactory condition are strict in California and Pennsylvania, where reporting of such condition is mandatory, while states such as South Dakota, Utah, New York and North Carolina specifically mention narcolepsy in their application form3.
Even if, legally, you are allowed to drive, you should know your capacity and refrain from driving beyond that capacity. With proper management of narcolepsy, there is no harm in driving but as soon as you feel sleepy, you should either stop or handover the steering to a co-passenger.
Granting of driving license in the UK to a person suffering from narcolepsy is through a pre-determined process. It is essential to disclose your condition to DVLA- Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, if you have already obtained a license and later on diagnosed with narcolepsy or if you are applying for a license for the first time and suffering from narcolepsy4. You have to fully satisfy DVLA that your condition has been controlled and you pose no risk to yourself and others if granted a license. The authorities at DVLA conduct investigation related to the medical condition of the patient. This includes contacting your doctor or consultant, arranging a doctor for further investigation and/or may ask you to undergo a driving test. If authorities of DVLA make a decision in your favor and allow you to drive, the license so granted would be valid for a short period such as 1 year, 2 years or 3 years. At the end of the validity period, your condition would be reassessed and you may be given an extension on the basis of your condition.
Almost all the countries have the law in place for granting a license to people suffering from narcolepsy. In the US, different states have their own process and different requirements in the application form. Granting of license in the UK, to people with narcolepsy, is done after thorough investigation and medical examination.
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