Cardiac arrest, ICD and your driving licence

It’s something that crops up quite often in the Facebook group – “Can I drive after my cardiac arrest and do I have to do anything to inform the DVLA, insurance etc“.  One person who was having a number of dealings on this subject was Stuart Menzies, who has a legal background and so I asked him if he could write up his experience of the process…

Cardiac arrest, ICD and your driving licence

As most, if not all reading this will be aware,  suffering a sudden cardiac arrest or/and having an ICD fitted will mean that you have to give up your driving licence for a period of time .

This is a brief guide to provide you with information in relation to voluntarily surrendering your driving licence –  which can be a traumatic process in itself – to re-applying to have your licence returned .

The reason for putting this guide together is that the instructions from DVLA can be complicated to understand and many questions have been asked on the Facebook group. 

Hopefully this guide will assist people who are unsure.  I should emphasise that this is based on my experience in assisting my wife who has unfortunately had to return her licence on two occasions in the last 18 months.

Notification to DVLA

It is a licence holders responsibility to contact DVLA and advise them that, due to medical advice they have been advised to cease driving for a period of time.

Your consultant will advise you how long you have to stop driving for [typically 6 months for those who have experienced a cardiac arrest].

This link provides details of a number of conditions, scenarios and how long you should cease driving for .

Assessing fitness to drive

On occasions you do not need to tell DVLA of your condition , see the following link

Heart failure and driving

Link for forms

Telling the DVLA about a medical condition or disability

Once you have identified the correct form associated with your condition from the link above you should complete it and send it off with your licence. 

You will receive a letter from DVLA confirming receipt of voluntary surrender of your licence. You have to physically send your licence away to DVLA (not a nice thing to do but has to be done)

Re-applying to have your licence returned

Once your advised period of voluntary surrender has elapsed you will be able to re apply again and have your licence returned to you .  Download the relevant form from the link above again.

Once you have mailed this you will receive a letter from DVLA stating that they have written to your consultant with an expected 6 week turn around .  You do not need to do anything further (other than call them back on several occasions as this part of the process takes a long time )

My wife has now been driving for 3 months – no licence back yet despite numerous calls to DVLA

Can you drive without  having your licence returned ?

Firstly – only after your advised time to abstain from driving has elapsed.

DVLA will send a progress update letter stating that they have contacted your consultant .  This letter will also contain a reference to

Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988  which will state :-

There is a provision in law, under this section that MAY allow you to drive while we process your application . You must meet the following criteria

  • You must be confident that your application will not be refused due to any medical condition you declared. 
  • You must have held a valid driving licence and only drive vehicles you are qualified to drive.
  • You must meet any conditions specified on your previous licence
  • You must have sent your fully completed application (re application) to DVLA in the last 12 months
  • Your licence has not been refused or revoked
  • You are not disqualified from holding a licence by a court

If you fulfil these points you can drive again even though your licence has not been returned to you .

DVLA cannot tell you if this section of the law applies to you .  If you decide to drive you MUST meet all the criteria listed in bullet points above .

Section 88 is valid until any of the following apply:-

  • You receive your driving licence back from DVLA
  • You receive a letter saying your licence has been revoked
  • Your application is more than a year old
  • You have since been disqualified by a court since you submitted your application.

You should carry the DVLA letter with you at all times should you feel you meet the criteria and be able to produce it to a Police Officer should you be asked to produce your driving licence . 

Remember this is only if you voluntarily surrendered your licence due to a medical condition .   

This guidance does not cover the circumstances if your licence was revoked.

Informing the insurance company

I can only speak from our own experience on this one and that covers an out of hospital cardiac arrest, resuscitation and ICD fitted.

We contacted the car insurance company.  They advised that there was no need to inform them, if the consultant says you are fit to drive then they are satisfied with this.

I asked them to record our conversation should any challenge come from this conversation .

I tried to keep this guide short however the process can be complicated and I do appreciate that it only covers a few scenarios. 

3 thoughts on “Cardiac arrest, ICD and your driving licence”

  1. This is really helpful advice but it is important to note (as the post itself makes clear) that it only covers the situation where you have “voluntarily surrendered” your licence and not where your licence has been revoked. I wish I had been aware of that subtle difference before I contacted the DVLA to advise them of my situation. Let me share what’s happened to me so that others can avoid what seems to be a distinction without a difference but one that has adverse implication when we cardiac arrest/ICDers are trying to start driving again.

    I had a cardiac arrest and an ICD fitted in April 2017. Rather than complete the appropriate DVLA form and sent it off to the DVLA with my licence attached (thereby “voluntarily surrendering my licence”), I did what I thought was required and advised the DVLA by completeing the online notification. Once this was done, the DVLA subsequently wrote to me saying that for medical reasons my licence was revoked and I should send it back to them which I duly did.

    As a result of the fact that I am deemed to have had my licence revoked rather than having voluntarily surrendered it, it means (according to the DVLA who I spoke to this morning) that I am not able to avail myself of the provisions of section 88 of the RTA 1988 which would allow me to resume driving once the 6 months have elapsed. Instead I have to reapply for my licence at the end of the 6 months which given that the turnaround time for the DVLA can apparently run into weeks or even months, the effective period of driving restriction extends to potentially much longer than the 6 months it should.

    I feel aggrieved about this as we all know how inconvenient it is to be restricted from driving and as well as everything else we have to cope with, our independence is taken away. I feel particularly aggrieved as it seems that by doing exactly the same thing (i.e. advising the DVLA of the fact of my cardiac arrest and ICD being fitted) but doing it via the online notification (as I thought I had to do) rather than sending off the appropriate form with my licence attached, the net result is that I am potentially going to suffer a much longer period of driving restriction than I should be. This is because section 88 of the RTA will not be available to me and I can’t recommence driving until a new licence has been issued by the DVLA). I will therefore be at the mercy of the vagaries of the DVLA administration and the inevitable delays. This seems grossly unfair as I have done exactly what I was supposed to do

    I am posting this in the hope that others will be able to avoid a similar fate and avoid being penalised for doing the right thing in a different way. None of this is clear at all and seems unfair to me.

    If anyone has any suggestions as to how I can proceed and try and improve my chances of not being restricted for longer than the 6 months, I would be most grateful. The DVLA’s suggestion was to send my application for licence renewal in with 8 weeks to go so they can start doing their medical investigations and hopefully be in a position to reissue my licence at the expiry of the 6 month period. I am not sure this will be possible as one of the forms that is required is a Declaration by my Consultant Cardiologist that my ICD has been fitted at least 6 months previously and in that period had not deliver any shock therapy. I don’t see how this form can be completed and submitted to the DVLA until the whole 6 month period has elapsed but that was their suggestion!

    Help and advice gratefully received.

    Thanks and good luck.

    • Simon, your experience has confirmed what I have felt about the DVLA regarding our (SCA survivors with Driving licences) situation. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

      My initial arrest was in December, 1994. My cardiology team ADVISED me to contact DVLA and tell them what had happened to me. I wrote to them because I didn’t have a PC then. They wrote back, requesting me to return my licence by post, which I did. They advised me to re apply for my licence in a year’s time, which I did. I honestly cannot remember if they used the word,
      REVOKED. In effect, that’s what they did.

      I reapplied after the year had elapsed and my case had been handed over to their medical panel. This was very early in the
      ICD story, as I’m sure you are aware. It took a further 18 months before they decided to issue me with an annual licence, subject to annual checks by my cardiologist. So, I began driving, legally and insured, 2 and a half years after my initial arrest. During the 2-4 weeks whilst my case was being reviewed every year, I WAS permitted to drive, legally.

      Finally, after almost 9 years of this, owing to the fact that my last arrest was in January, 1999, my licence was reissued as permanent, as long as I promised to inform them if any further arrests occurred. None have, and my licence remains permanent until I hit 70 next year and do the reapplication as normal.

      My insurance company was kept informed through all of the above, and, except for that 30 month period of my licence suspension/revocation (1994-1997), they were happy to keep insuring me to drive.

  2. I can confirm that my insurance were not interested in knowing about my SCA, and did not need to mark it on my notes.
    In my cardiac rehab several people there boasted that they had not surrendered their licence and had even driven themselves to the class. This is far more common that I’d ever have thought normal. In my opinion it shows utter negligence for the safety of other road users, and is obviously prosecutable if ever reported or discovered.
    Great blog. Thanks for setting the record straight.


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