Driving and the DVLA

Got a question? Check out out FAQ

Experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest and/or having an ICD fitted will mean that you have to give up your driving licence for a period.

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.

The information on this page is based upon this blog entry and other experiences of group members.

If you used your car to get to work and can no longer drive it’s worth checking out the Access to Work scheme as you may qualify for support for your transport costs.

Notification to DVLA

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

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 must physically send your licence away to DVLA – not a nice thing to do but has to be done.

DVLA address:
Drivers Medical Group,
SA99 1TU

0300 790 6806

Be aware that if you just complete the form online and do not send your licence back there is a likelihood that the DVLA will revoke your licence rather than just suspending it.  There are different rules for licences that have been revoked rather than suspended, the main difference being that for a voluntary surrendered licence you may drive again under the provision of  Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act whereas if it’s been revoked you cannot – you have to re-apply and wait for that to be processed, which can take some time!

Re-applying for your licence

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 turnaround.  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!

The DVLA will send your cardiologist forms to get more information about your cardiac status.  Your cardiologist will need to sign these forms to say they should issue you with a licence. This all takes time, and as the number of people having ICDs implanted increases, this process may take longer. Therefore, we suggest you start reapplying for your licence three to four months after your ICD was implanted/event.

Image result for gov uk
Click to check your license status at the DVLA

Can you drive without a physical licence?

Firstly – only after your advised time to abstain from driving has elapsed and only if you surrendered it i.e. it wasn’t revoked.

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.

Download DVLA Section 88 leaflet

Informing the insurance company

The official advice is that you should inform your insurance company of your heart condition and implant (ICD/pacemaker) if you have one, but from our members experience most insurance companies do not seem to be interested in the fact that you have had an SCA.  If you have a valid licence to drive then they will be happy to insure you.  Of course, if you are on a prolonged suspension and your car isn’t going to be used you may wish to speak to them to alter your level of cover and potentially save a few pounds.


Should any changes occur to your heart situation there is the likelihood that you will have to inform the DVLA and a further suspension will be imposed.

You must not drive for one month if any of the leads are changed or revised.

You must not drive for one month if your cardiologist or any other doctor changes your anti-arrhythmic drugs e.g. beta-blockers.

If you receive an appropriate shock from your ICD i.e. one that is correcting a potentially fatal arrhythmia, you must again surrender your licence and be suspended for 6 months.  If you were incapacitated (eg unconscious) whilst you received the shock the suspension is two years, which can be reduced to 6 months if your cardiologist takes steps to prevent any further events requiring a shock, (eg starting or increasing meds).

If you receive an inappropriate shock i.e. the shock was unnecessary, then you will receive a one-month suspension.

Got a question? Check out out FAQ