The Glasgow bin lorry crash just before Christmas last year was without doubt a tragedy for the relatives of the 6 victims who lost their lives. The subsequent refusal of the Crown Prosecution Service to bring charges against the driver after the Crash Inquiry has understandably caused anger amongst relatives and road safety campaigners. However, whatever the rights and wrongs of that decision, the case has highlighted just how little ordinary drivers know about their rights and responsibilities when they apply for, and are granted, a driving licence. So, here is Harold Stock & Co’s summary of DVLA law. Hopefully this will go some way to clarifying the issue.
Ordinary UK driving licences issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) are inscribed with a clause that is often ignored or overlooked by drivers. The clause reads:
‘You are required by law to inform Drivers Medical Branch, DVLA, Swansea SA99 1AT at once if you have any disability (either physical or medical condition) which is, or may become, likely to affect your fitness as a driver, unless you do not expect it to last more than three months.’
It is the responsibility of the driver to inform the DVLA about any ‘identifiable medical condition’. It is the responsibility of doctors to advise patients that medical conditions (and drugs) may affect their ability to drive and for which conditions patients should inform the DVLA. Drivers should also inform their insurance company of any condition disclosed to the DVLA.
Notifiable medical conditions
You must tell DVLA if you have a driving licence and you develop a ‘notifiable’ medical condition or disability; that is, a condition or disability has got worse since you received your licence. Notifiable conditions are anything that could affect your ability to drive safely. They can include:
- An epileptic fit (seizure or fit.)
- Sudden attacks of disabling giddiness, fainting or blackouts.
- Severe mental handicap.
- A pacemaker or implanted defibrillator device fitted.
- Diabetes controlled by insulin or tablets that have a high risk of causing hypoglycaemia – for instance sulfonylureas.
- Angina whilst driving.
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Any other chronic neurological condition.
- A serious problem with memory.
- A major or minor cerebrovascular event.
- Any type of brain surgery, brain tumour or severe head injury involving inpatient treatment at hospital.
- Any severe psychiatric illness or mental disorder.
- Continuing/permanent difficulty in the use of arms or legs which affects your ability to control a vehicle.
- Dependence on or misuse of alcohol, illicit drugs or chemical substances in the past three years (not including drink/driving offences).
- Any visual disability which affects both eyes (not including declared short/long sight or colour blindness).
As well as theses major medical conditions, the DVLA also lists a long list of notifiable illnesses and conditions that drivers are obliged to report. For a full list see: (https://www.gov.uk/health-conditions-and-driving)
How to tell DVLA
There are different forms for different conditions and disabilities. Contact the DVLA if you’re not sure what to do. Failure to do notify DVLA about any condition that might affect your ability to drive safely could result in a fine of up to £1,000, and prosecution should you have an accident because of your condition.
Surrendering your licence
You must surrender your licence to the DVLA if your doctor tells you to stop driving because of your medical condition, or if you don’t currently meet the required standards for driving. It’s worth noting that surrendering your licence voluntarily may mean that you can start driving again sooner.
Your first licence renewal takes place once you reach the age of 70. First licence or renewal if you’re over 70
What happens after you tell DVLA?
You’ll usually get a decision within 6 weeks. You’ll get a letter from DVLA if it takes longer. What action might the DVLA take? Well, it might:
- Contact your doctor or consultant.
- Arrange for you to be examined.
- Ask you to take a driving assessment, or an eyesight or driving test.
What the DVLA will decide
DVLA will assess your medical condition or disability and decide if:
- You need to get a new driving licence.
- You can have a shorter licence – for 1, 2 or 3 years – with a review at the end of that period if you want to reapply.
- You need to adapt your car by fitting special controls.
- You must stop driving and surrender your licence.