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Driving Licences: Disability and the DVLA

As the age profile of the country changes and the number of “senior” drivers increases it is unsurprising that there should be an increasing focus on the medical fitness of drivers as a key safety issue. Disability has also hit the headlines after a sequence of tragic incidents involving drivers who have lost control of their vehicles as a result of illness.

It is the DVLA in Swansea who deal with these issues and under regulations the Secretary of State has wide powers to refuse to grant, suspend or revoke all classes of licence. The aim is to avoid licences being held by those who might be a source of danger to the public.

In certain cases medical information is required before the grant or renewal of a licence. All goods vehicle licences require clear medical checks on application and renewal every 5 years. Ordinary driving licences require renewal at 70 with medical evidence and the every 3 years thereafter. Anyone convicted of an excess alcohol offence for the second time or with a high reading will be considered high risk and only be able to recover a licence when any ban finishes after strict medical enquiry.

Diseases and disabilities justifying refusal are set out in the regulations and include; severe mental disability, sudden attacks of giddiness or fainting, or liability to such attacks because of a heart condition, and persistent alcohol or drug misuse. 
The regulations also list the parameters where partial loss of eyesight is an issue, the effect of diabetes and epilepsy and loss or deformity of limbs. As might be expected the rules are tighter for those holding Group 2 licences, like lorry or bus drivers.

Any decision to refuse or revoke can be appealed to the Magistrates Court under section 100 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. There is a duty on drivers and applicants to notify any condition or illness which might affect their driving, and if the disability notified is of such a nature as to leave the authority no alternative but to refuse the application then the applicant will not be able to appeal.

In practice we can often help in medical cases and it is unusual for a formal appeal to be lodged. Obtaining positive medical evidence and providing the DVLA medical unit with relevant information can often lead to changed decisions. For example, a GP may express concerns to the DVLA which can be resolved by a report from a client’s consultant on review. 

If you or a friend or relative receive a letter from the Drivers Medical Unit at Swansea do not despair, contact Andy Cash in our motoring solicitors team on 0800 2800 880 and we will explore with you the options for keeping you on the road or recovering your licence.

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