I have epilepsy. Am I allowed to drive?
Because of the wide range in types of epilepsy and types of driver licence, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) doesn't apply one rule in all situations.
If you are applying for or renewing your driver licence, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) will probably require you to get a medical certificate (see the next question) from your doctor to say that you are medically fit to drive. You probably won’t be able to apply for a P, V, I or O endorsement or a heavy vehicle licence classes if you have a history of epilepsy.
Generally, if you have a seizure you need to stop driving for 12 months.
If you haven’t experienced a seizure for 12 months, your epilepsy is considered ‘controlled’, and you may apply for a driver licence.
If you have not had a seizure for 5 years, you may be considered for commercial driving.
If you have a private driver licence but do a lot of driving as part of your work, you could be increasing your risk of having an epileptic seizure due to fatigue. Talk with your health provider about whether it is safe for you to continue driving this way.
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Why do I have to get a medical certificate before I can have my driver licence renewed?
Some people need to get a medical certificate as part of their driver licence application or renewal:
- professional drivers renewing their endorsements
- people with a medical condition that can affect their ability to drive safely (e.g. epilepsy, diabetes)
- older drivers (aged 75 or over)
- people applying for or renewing a heavy vehicle licence class (a 2,3,4 or 5 licence), who have not submitted a medical certificate within the last five years
- people requested to do so by the NZTA
If your doctor isn’t sure whether you’re medically fit for the classes or endorsements you are applying for, they may refer you to an occupational therapist for a driving assessment (called a ‘medical check’). It will check things like your vision, memory and knowledge of road rules and signs, followed by an on-road, practical assessment of your driving ability. ACC or the Ministry of Health disability funding may fund this assessment, otherwise you will have to pay for it yourself.
The occupational therapist will send a report back to your doctor, who can then decide whether you are medically fit to drive the classes or endorsements you’re applying for or renewing.
More information about medical certificates and OT assessments on the NZTA website.