Driving and the DVLA

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.

We have put together a list of frequently asked questions and a brief guide to provide you with information in relation to voluntarily surrendering your driving licence to re-applying for your licence to be returned.

The reason for putting this guide together is that the instructions from DVLA can be complicated to understand and it is a common topic in our Facebook group.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m worried about someone’s ability to drive

If you are worried about the safety of someone’s driving, it can be a tricky subject to talk about. But it’s vital to make them aware of your concerns, not just for their safety, but for the safety of others on the road.

If a person has been driving for many years it can be hard to suddenly stop, and it can change the way they see themselves. So they may need support and guidance from family, friends and professionals.

Sometimes survivors find it difficult to recognise the effects of the event. It can also affect your judgement and, in rare cases, someone can be unaware they have a disability. This is called anosognosia.

Family members and professionals may need to remind them that they can no longer drive because of the potential risk to themselves and others. You could read this together and talk about the other ways of getting around, and plan some of the journeys they might want to make using alternative types of transport.

If you feel that the person is not safe to drive and they refuse to stop driving, you can write to the DLVA in confidence online. 

Do I have to stop driving if I have a cardiac arrest?

The simple answer is yes, but usually only temporarily.

The length of the period that you cannot drive for is mainly dependent on the cause of your cardiac arrest and the remedial action taken.

For example, if you had a heart attack as the cause and you had stents and medications to prevent future episodes then the period to stop driving would typically be 1 month.

If you had to have an ICD fitted then the period that you had to stop driving would typically be 6 months from the date of the implant - not the date of the cardiac arrest

Can I drive without my physical licence?

It may be possible, it depends on whether you satisfy the criteria for Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act.

See "What is Section 88" for more information.

How can I view my licence information and status?

You can find information and the status of your driving licence by using the government licence check facility.

You will need your driving licence number, national insurance number and post code.

You can see details about who the licence is for, when it is valid from/to, the current status, what vehicles you can drive, any penalties or disqualififcations.

You can also get a code so that you can share your licence details with another party such as an employer or car hire company.

Do I have to inform my 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.

However, from our members experience most insurance companies do not seem to be interested in the fact that you have had a cardiac arrest. If you have a valid licence to drive then they are generally happy to take your money and 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.

Can I drive if I get a shock from my ICD?

If at any time you receive an appropriate shock from your ICD i.e. one that is correcting a potentially fatal arrhythmia, you must surrender your licence and stop driving for 6 months.  

If you were incapacitated i.e. went unconscious whilst you received the shock the suspension is 2 years. This may be reduced to 6 months if your cardiologist takes steps to prevent any further events requiring a shock eg starting or adjusting medications.

If you receive an inappropriate shock i.e. the shock was unnecessary, then you will receive a 1 month suspension.

If you are driving whilst you receive a shock you should stop as soon as is safe to do so, and should not continue until the cause of the shock has been investigated.

For more information about shocks see our ICD shocks page.

What is Section 88?

Section 88 refers to a part of the Road Traffic Act that may allow you to continue driving even if you do not physically have your driving licence.

There is a provision in the law, under section 88 that MAY allow you to drive while the DVLA 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.

How do I get my licence back?

Once your advised period of voluntary surrender has elapsed you will be able to re-apply again and have your licence returned to you.  

You can find information on this process on the government website and a link to download the relevant form.

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 it's a good idea to chase your cardiologist to make sure you're not forgotten.

It's also worth starting the process a good 8 weeks before the date your period of driving restriction ends.

If your licence was revoked, as opposed to voluntarily surrendered, you may find that the process to get your licence back longer and more arduous.

How can I tell if my licence was revoked or not?

See the "How can I view my licence information and status" FAQ on how to do this.

Why was my licence revoked?

In the SCA UK Facebook Group we are seeing an increasing number of members who get their licence revoked when they voluntarily surrender it.

At this time it is not clear why this happens as we have seen members with apparently similar circumstances have different outcomes.

The DVLA can revoke your licence on medical grounds and it may be the differences in the details that they make their decision but for now, it is a bit of a mystery.

Our only advice would be to not use the online form but as soon as possible fill in the paper forms and send in your licence stating that you are voluntarily surrendering your licence. This is because anecdotal evidence from the group indicates that if you use the online form it appears you're more likely to get your licence revoked.

Do I need to inform the DVLA I had a cardiac arrest?

It is YOUR responsibility to tell the DVLA about a health or medical condition that could affect your driving.

You can be fined up to £1,000 if you do not tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving.

You can do this via the "Report a medical condition" page.

You’ll need to enter details about your current driving licence and your condition. You might also need to give your GP’s name and address.

How this will affect your ability to drive will depend on what the cause of your cardiac arrest was, any remedial treatment you have had and any subsequent or other conditions you have.

You will have to enter or select from a list of conditions that you have and may affect your ability to drive.

The list is quite long and covers many conditions but you will NOT find cardiac arrest amongst them as it is an event, rather than a condition.

Conditions that are on the list and may apply to cardiac arrest survivors:

When does my period of suspension start from?

The date of your suspension will usually start from the date that you have any remedial work or get a formal diagnosis of a condition, not necessarily the date of your cardiac arrest.

For example, if you have a cardiac arrest and 2 weeks later get an ICD implant, then the suspension will start from the date of the implant, not the arrest.

If you have a heart attack as the cause of your cardiac arrest, the problem is often looked at and dealt within a short time frame (same day) so the suspension will start from that day.

How long will I have to stop driving for?

It will largely depend on your individual circumstances and medical conditions but common suspension periods are as follows:

If you had a heart attack as the cause of your cardiac arrest and it was remedied with medications and/or stents then the suspension period is 1 month.

If you had to have an ICD fitted then the suspension period will be 6 months from the date of the implant. If you have any shocks further suspensions will apply and the length will vary depending on a number of factors. See "Can I drive if I get a shock from my ICD" for more information.

You may also have to temporarily stop driving if your anti-arrhythmic medications are changed, typically for 1 month.

If your driving licence was revoked you’ll have to wait until all medical enquiries are complete. You will also need to have your driving licence back before you can start driving again.

You can check the DVLA information for medical professionals regarding assessing fitness to drive here, and this shows the rules regarding whether you can drive or not and if not, for how long.

How do I contact the DVLA?

Full contact details of the DVLA Medical Group are on this page on the government website

What form do I use to tell the DVLA I have an ICD?

You must use the DEFIB1 form which can be downloaded from the government website on this page.

If you are a coach, bus or lorry driver you must use the VOCH1 form.

Can I drive an HGV or commercial vehicle after a cardiac arrest?

This is one for your doctor.

You should be assessed by your doctor using these guidelines which determine the rules for assessing drivers with cardiac conditions.

Many of the conditions listed will mean that there will be some period of suspension, but you may be allowed to drive again if you can meet certain conditions including assessment by a specialist cardiologist.

However, if you have an ICD implanted you will not be able to drive an HGV or commercial vehicle.

Do all cardiac arrest survivors get the same suspension period?

No.

The length of your suspension can vary depending on a number of factors including but not limited to cause of your cardiac, remedial actions taken, subsequent or other conditions.

It may seem tempting to compare one person's case with another but it is often difficult to do so because of not having the full facts about a person's situation.

But I need my car for work!

If you are unable to drive because of your cardiac arrest and you are in a position to return to work, you may apply for the "Access to Work" scheme which may help with other transport costs, such as public transport or even private taxi's.

For example, a member of SCA UK who was a teacher when she had her SCA was unable to return to work because she had an ICD fitted and this meant a driving suspension period of 6 months. She lived in the country and there was no suitable public transport to get her to her school. The "Access to Work" scheme gave her a grant to allow her to get a taxi to and from her place of work.

If you can get to work by public transport you might be able to get reduced price travel such as a Disabled Person’s Railcard. If your licence has been revoked for medical reasons, you are entitled to a free bus pass in most areas. In Northern Ireland, you can get a SmartPass giving you half price travel. In London, you can get a Freedom Pass. Apply through your local council.

I’m worried about someone’s ability to drive

If you are worried about the safety of someone’s driving, it can be a tricky subject to talk about. But it’s vital to make them aware of your concerns, not just for their safety, but for the safety of others on the road.

If a person has been driving for many years it can be hard to suddenly stop, and it can change the way they see themselves. So they may need support and guidance from family, friends and professionals.

Sometimes survivors find it difficult to recognise the effects of the event. It can also affect your judgement and, in rare cases, someone can be unaware they have a disability. This is called anosognosia.

Family members and professionals may need to remind them that they can no longer drive because of the potential risk to themselves and others. You could read this together and talk about the other ways of getting around, and plan some of the journeys they might want to make using alternative types of transport.

If you feel that the person is not safe to drive and they refuse to stop driving, you can write to the DLVA in confidence online. 

Driving again after a cardiac arrest

If you are able to return to driving, the choice of when and how to do it is a personal one. 

If you have an occupational therapist, talk to them about it. They can tailor your therapy to help prepare you to return to driving. An automatic car can be easier to drive than a manual.

Before you start driving again, you may find it helpful to have a few refresher lessons with a qualified driving instructor. You can find driving instructors in your area by looking in your local phonebook or on the internet. Check that they are registered with the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). Mobility centres can also provide advice about returning to driving.

Insurance
Before you start driving again you must tell your insurance company about your cardiac arrest and any medical conditions you have. If you don’t do this, it might invalidate your insurance. Insurance companies have their own processes, so talk to yours to find out more. Check your policy carefully. They might want confirmation that you are safe to drive.

Having a medical condition can make insurance more expensive. Try shopping around for a competitive quote, or look for a specialist insurance provider when you need to renew.


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 and had an ICD implanted].

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,
DVLA,
Swansea
SA99 1TU

0300 790 6806
www.gov.uk/health-conditions-and-driving

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 voluntarily 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!

*This service has been currently suspended

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 to call them back on several occasions as this part of the process can take 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.

Changes

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.

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