24 Mar
2011

It is estimated that while one in ten persons has a single seizure at some time during a lifetime, only a small proportion of these will have a second seizure, and even if an individual did have a second seizure, it would be unlikely to occur during the tiny fraction of his life that is spent driving. For most individuals who do experience a second seizure (epilepsy), seizures are controlled by medication; as long as the individual takes his medication the risk of further recurrence remains low. Thus, there is even more reason to individualize rules about driving.
The chances of having a recurrence while driving will obviously be determined in part by the amount of time the person spends at the wheel. That risk is also affected by sleeplessness, by use of other medications, and by many unknown factors.
Thus, it is impossible to make any blanket statements about ALL people with epilepsy and equally impossible to make blanket statements about the chance of a recurrence while a person with epilepsy is driving. The risks of recurrence and the risks of driving must be assessed individually.
With these caveats, one study found that only one accident in 10,000 was due to a seizure while driving; six were due to natural death at the wheel. Alcohol was responsible for 2,500 of the 10,000 accidents studied. Some studies do suggest that the traffic accident rate may be higher for those with epilepsy, but also that women with epilepsy have a lower accident rate than men without epilepsy. The rate of accidents for persons with epilepsy is no different from the rate for those with cardiovascular disease or diabetes. It has been estimated that in only one in five accidents involving a person with epilepsy is the accident the result of a seizure, and that those accidents, in fact, tend to be less severe, to involve only a driver’s vehicle, and to occur in less populated areas. Therefore, even when epilepsy might contribute to an accident, that accident appears to present, in general, less risk to others.
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