In today's modern world, getting around town to work, to run errands, and simply enjoy life is not easy without access to a vehicle. Many drivers take for granted their ability to hop behind the wheel and go wherever they want whenever they need. Yet, there is a certain responsibility to getting into a vehicle when it comes to public safety, and this is where the law and certain medical issues often collide.
People who suffer from epilepsy need to be mobile, but there is also the danger of what might happen if they were to suffer a seizure while they are driving, or if the medications they take to prevent the seizures were to make them drowsy.
What Do the States Allow?
Currently, all states in the country will allow people with controlled seizures to have the ability to drive. However, each of the states have their own labyrinth of laws and rules that govern driving privileges. These laws vary greatly state-by-state. Those who have epilepsy and who want to drive need to make sure that they know and understand the laws in their state when they are trying to get a license.
States will generally limit the availability of licenses to people with epilepsy based on their seizure-free interval - how long it has been since they've had their last seizure. If someone has been seizure-free for a long time, several months at least, they are a lower risk. Some states will allow physicians to make the decision on a case-by-case basis.
Recent Sentencing Highlights the Risk of Ignoring the Laws
In 2012, a man in California suffered a seizure while he was driving and caused a fatal car accident. In July of 2015, he was convicted of second-degree murder and vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to 33 years and 8 months in prison. He must also pay $1,000 to the state fund for victims, $9,208 to the family of one of the victims, and $317,749 to the family of the second victim.
Not only was he driving on a suspended license, he was going over the speed limit when the seizure and accident occurred. His vehicle slammed into the back of a vehicle that was sitting at a red light, killing two of the passengers instantly and injuring two other people in a third vehicle. He knew that he had problems with his seizures and drove anyway. Worse, he was actually involved in seven car crashes previously between 2001 and 2011. If your epileptic seizures are uncontrolled it is wise to use alternate means of transportation rather than driving yourself.
Responsibility to Safety and to Rights
What's the answer? How should we determine whether someone should be able to drive or not if they suffer from seizures? While they certainly deserve rights, and if they haven't had seizures in six months or a year, the risk is lower. However, there is always the underlying possibility of an accident. It's unknown what the right answer is to satisfy everyone, if there even is such an answer.