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Driving with a brain tumour

A brain tumour diagnosis can affect your ability to drive safely and you may need to surrender your license to the agency that issued it.

Not being able to drive is one of the things that people living with a brain tumour often report as most difficult to deal with, in terms of changes to their daily life. The loss of a driving licence is often seen as loss of independence.

But, if you’ve been diagnosed with a brain tumour, you must tell the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) or, if you live in Northern Ireland, the Driver& Vehicle Agency (DVA).

This is because it could affect your ability to drive safely. This will depend on the type, grade and location in the brain of your tumour and also on the treatment and side-effects you have.

It’s very common to be told by the DVLA or DVA to give up your driving licence. This may be temporary, but, unfortunately, some people won’t be able to drive legally again. If you have to surrender your licence there are a variety of services and practical schemes to help you get around.

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the DVLA is operating at a reduced capacity. During this time they’re focusing on applications from people who are directly involved in the response to the pandemic – particularly HGV drivers and key workers.

As a result, they’re unable to deal with any other paper applications until further notice.

However, the DVLA’s digital services continue to operate as normal and they’re encouraging people to use these digital services where possible.

As NHS doctors focus on responding to the pandemic, they’re unable to carry out medicals required for drivers or provide further information on applications.

This means licence applications may be delayed as road safety is the DVLA’s top priority, and they have to be sure that drivers are medically fit to drive.

The DVLA are very sorry for the inconvenience this causes but they’re asking people not to call their contact centre, unless you’re directly involved in the response to coronavirus.

In some cases, you may be able to drive while the DVLA considers your application, providing:

  • you have a current driving licence
  • you haven’t been told by a doctor or optician that you shouldn’t drive
  • you meet the Section 88 qualifying criteria set out in INF188/6.

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Please note that this information is relevant to people holding a group one licence (for cars and motorcycles). Rules relating to group two licences (large lorries and buses) are different. You can find out more about group two licences from the DVLA or DVA.

Am I fit to drive?

After receiving a brain tumour diagnosis you should speak to your healthcare team or GP about assessing your fitness to drive.

If healthcare professionals decide that you are unfit to drive, the length of time you’ll be unable to drive will depend on:

  • the type of your brain tumour you have
  • the grade of your brain tumour
  • where the tumour is in your brain
  • the type of treatment you’ve had and when it was

For many types of high grade tumour, you won’t be allowed to drive for at least two years, while for lower grade tumours, it may be one year, but it can be less.

For example, with low grade tumours in the cerebellum or brain stem, or with grade one meningiomas, you can generally drive once you’ve recovered from treatment. Unless you’ve had a craniotomy, in which case you won’t be able to drive for six months.

In all cases, there must be no other factors or after-effects of treatment that could affect your ability to drive, before you’re allowed to drive again.

These time spans are from completion of primary treatment. This can include radiotherapy and chemotherapy that you may have after, or instead of, surgery. Your doctor can advise you whether the treatment you’re having is considered primary treatment.


Around 60% of people with a brain tumour will experience a seizure at least once and one of the major factors is the risk, or chance, of you having a seizure as a result of the tumour itself or your treatment.

If you’ve had a seizure of any type, you won’t be allowed to drive for a certain period. This will usually be for at least one year from your last seizure but for some low grade tumours it may be less, and for higher grade tumours, it’s likely to be more.

Some people may not be able to drive again, due to having repeated seizures. This is the case whether your consciousness is affected during your seizures or not.

Sight problems

Around 28% of patients with a brain tumour report problems with their vision.This can include hallucinations, double vision, sensitivity to light and reduced field of vision.

Driving while experiencing sight problems could put you and others at serious risk. Though it may be hard to hear, combination of these factors and/or your diagnosis, could mean you won’t be able to legally drive again.

Can I drive if I had a brain tumour as a child?

If you had a brain tumour as a child, with no recurrence, and don’t experience other disqualifying side-effects as a result of your tumour, you can have a regular driving licence and keep it until the usual age of 70.

It’s important to remember that this is just a general guide. Everyone’s tumour is different and the DVLA or DVA will consider your individual situation and risk of further symptoms before allowing you to drive again.

Informing the DVLA or DVA

When should I tell them?

It’s a legal requirement to inform the DVLA or DVA as soon as possible after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell the DVLA or DVA about your brain tumour diagnosis. You may also be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident caused because your tumour or the treatment you’ve received is affecting your ability to drive.

At any time when you’re allowed to drive, you must also tell the DVLA or DVA if:

  • your condition worsens
  • you begin taking any medication or treatments that could affect your driving.

Before you talk to the DVLA or DVA you should speak to your healthcare team about whether you’re fit to drive.

What if my doctor thinks I’m currently unfit to drive?

If a doctor says you should stop driving for three months or longer, you must voluntarily give up your licence to the DVLA or DVA. This is known as surrendering your licence and once you have surrendered your licence, you must stop driving.

Once you’ve informed the DVLA or DVA about your brain tumour diagnosis, they will start an enquiry into your fitness to drive. This involves sending a form to you and your doctor, asking about your health, your tumour, any treatment you’re receiving and any side-effects you’re experiencing.

If you don’t surrender your licence and the DVLA or DVA find you unfit to drive, they will take away your licence. This is known as having your licence revoked.

Having your licence revoked may feel more distressing than surrendering it yourself. Additionally, you may find it more difficult to get your licence back if your licence has been revoked, rather than surrendered. It also takes longer before you can drive again.

What if my doctor thinks I’m currently fit to drive?

You must still tell the DVLA or DVA about your brain tumour, but you can legally continue to drive until they have finished their enquiries.

If the DVLA or DVA are satisfied you meet the standard to drive then you can continue driving, although they may change your licence to a short-term medical review licence. This is most often for between one and three years, at the end of which you’ll need to reapply to keep your licence.

If the DVLA or DVA aren’t satified you meet the standard to drive, then they will revoke the licence and give you information about how long you can’t drive for. Unfortunately, the process of reapplying for your licence after this time will be more complicated because your licence was revoked.

If you live in England, Wales or Scotland, the appropriate agency to contact is the DVLA.

To tell the DVLA about your brain tumour diagnosis you need to fill in Form B1. This is available online or you can contact the DVLA for a paper copy using the contact details below.

Drivers Medical Enquiries
SA99 1TU
T: 0300 790 6806

When filling in the form you’ll need to include:

  • Your full name, date of birth and driver’s number.
  • Name and contact details of your GP and consultant.
  • Type and grade of tumour and date of your diagnosis.
  • Details of any treatment you’ve had, plus dates, and any planned or possible further treatments.

If you live in Northern Ireland, the appropriate agency to contact is the DVA.

To inform the DVA of your brain tumour diagnosis, you must send both parts of your licence, along with a covering letter giving details of your condition, to:

Drivers Medical Section
Castlerock Road
Northern Ireland
BT51 3TB

They’ll then send you the appropriate medical questionnaire to gain more details about your condition. This will include a section for you to give permission for the DVA to contact your healthcare team, if required.

You can find more information online or by ringing 0300 200 7861.

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Driving and brain tumours

Vicky discusses the practical and emotional impact of having to lose her driving license.

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