Epilepsy

Driving, transport and travel with epilepsy

Here young people talk about driving, the use of transport, travelling and holidays and if they felt having epilepsy had affected these areas of life.

Driving

Many young people we spoke with didn't have a driving licence or couldn't drive because of epilepsy. Some had never learnt to drive, others had had to hand in their licence when they were diagnosed. A few had got their licences back after being seizure free for the required 12 months.

For some, not being able to drive had been the most difficult aspect of having epilepsy and they had been very upset when told they couldn't drive. Many said the hardest thing about not driving was the loss of independence. One woman described losing her licence as 'having my right arm cut off'. People usually got lifts from friends and parents but most said they didn't like relying on others. Many described how they were counting the weeks and months for being seizure-free for 12 months and being able to apply for their licences.

Having no licence also posed practical challenges for many. For those who lived in a rural area or a small town with poor public transport, getting around without a car was tricky and required a lot of planning ahead. Being able to drive was also important when looking for work outside people's home towns or for getting around easily to study placements at different locations. One woman who had a child said having a car is much more practical when getting around with a baby, pushchair and shopping bags.

Many young people said that having a driving licence was about more than just being able to drive - about being able to do the same things as their friends and a sign of being an adult. People felt it was hard to miss out on something most of their friends were doing. A few pointed out that a licence was also a handy ID to have. One man said, when he finally got his driving licence “It was so good holding that thing and it lives in my wallet, you know, I'm actually part of the crew now.”

A couple of people also felt it was frustrating when others kept asking them why they didn't drive yet and they didn't want to say it was because they had epilepsy. One man said he'd always been interested in cars and motorsport and found it hard to wait until his seizures were controlled before he could learn to drive. 

Not being able to drive was frustrating but a few people pointed out that they totally appreciated why they couldn't and that it could be dangerous, for them and others, if they had a seizure while driving. One woman said, “I wouldn't want myself driving out on the roads.”

A couple of people, who had lost their licence when they were diagnosed, had been seizure-free for long enough to get it back.

For some, not being able to drive was no problem at all. They said driving and having a car is so expensive that they couldn't afford it anyway. They preferred public transport because it's convenient, especially in big cities, or because it's more environmentally friendly. Some said they just weren't interested in learning to drive. 

Public transport

Many young people used public transport instead of driving themselves. Those who lived in bigger cities actually preferred using buses, trains and the tube. Most people had a free or subsidised bus or train pass, which entitled them for free travel (see our 'Practical matters resources' for links to more information on this). One man said that he's fine using public transport in cities but if he wants to go out to the countryside he needs lifts from mates. 

For a few people, taking public transport was also difficult because of frequent and unpredictable seizures and they only used public transport with someone else. One man said taking the tube in London made him anxious and worried about having a seizure.

Quite a few people who couldn't drive said they cycled so that they didn't have to walk everywhere. People said they weighed up the risk of having a seizure when cycling, against staying at home all the time or not using any form of transport on their own. A few people had fallen off their bikes and injured themselves because they'd had seizures while cycling and most said they wore a helmet to minimise the risk (see 'Sport and exercise').

Travelling and holidays

Young people also talked about their experiences of travelling and going on holidays. Many were fine to travel and a few said going away on holiday was actually good for seizures because it helped them relax. One man had lived abroad a few times and one woman was just about to move abroad to work. 

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Some people had special travel insurance which covered their epilepsy. They also made sure they had enough medication with them to last the duration of the holiday, as well as for when they got back home. One woman takes a letter from her GP whenever she travels abroad to show at airport security because she needs to carry both AEDs and insulin for her diabetes in hand luggage.

A few people had experienced problems when travelling, for example long flights triggering seizures or adjusting their medicine-taking when travelling to different time zones. Some also said that they didn't like to fly or travel abroad because they felt their health was too unstable or because they needed to stick to a regular daily routine. One man wanted to travel a lot more with his mates but didn't think it was sensible or fair on them to have to take responsibility if he had a seizure while travelling.


 

Last reviewed May 2016.

Last updated March 2012

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