Why are we asking about car driving and ME/CFS in our website poll this month?
Firstly, because this is a question that comes up quite regularly and I am aware that people are receiving all kinds of conflicting misleading and inaccurate advice.
So I think it's important to start off by pointing out that people with ME/CFS have a number of symptoms – muscle fatigue/weakness, cognitive dysfunction, blurred vision or difficulty following moving images, and daytime fatigue/sleepiness in particular – that can or will affect their ability to safely drive a car. .
And while a significant number of people with ME/CFS do stop driving as a result, there are others who should not be driving – even on an occasional basis.
Driving a car if you have ME/CFS is clearly an area of personal responsibility where you have to consider not only your own safety but that of people who may be with you in the car, as well as any other road user.
And this is something you should discuss with your GP, who should be used to dealing with queries relating to medical problems and fitness to drive.
Secondly, in relation to insurance, it's important to check the small print in the policy where it refers to medical conditions.
You will almost certainly find that you are obliged to inform the insurer of any condition that could affect your ability to drive, or words to that effect. This would obviously include ME/CFS.
Failure to provide an insurer with this type of information could well invalidate your policy, especially if a claim results from something that could be linked to your medical condition.
Thirdly, the DLVA produces very comprehensive guidance on medical conditions and fitness to drive.
Ordinary UK driving licenses issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) state:
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.
You could be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell DVLA about a condition that might affect your ability to drive safely. You could also be prosecuted if you have an accident.
It is the responsibility of the driver to inform the DVLA.
It is also 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.
The DVLA issues very specific guidance on a large number of named conditions and in some situations (e.g. epilepsy) includes restrictions on the ability to drive. Interestingly, ME/CFS is not included in this list.
However, problems such as excessive sleepiness, cognitive dysfunction (eg where this is affecting visual attention, causing easy distractibility or ability to multitask) and medication (e.g. antidepressants) are covered.
Detailed information on fitness to drive from the DLVA can be downloaded from the DVLA website:
Dr Charles Shepherd
Hon Medical Adviser, ME Association