Driving and brain tumours

If you have been diagnosed with a brain tumour, you have a legal requirement to inform the DVLA or, in Northern Ireland, the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) as soon as possible. You must also notify them if your condition worsens, or if any treatments or medication could affect your driving.

Informing the DVLA or DVA

When you contact the DVLA /DVA, it is a good idea to consider voluntarily surrendering (give up) your licence. If you do not, they could revoke (take away) your licence, which may feel more distressing. It can also make administrative matters less straightforward and often makes it harder to gain permission to drive again in the future.

When you contact the DVLA / DVA, it is useful to have the following information to hand:

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

Failure to notify the agency about your brain tumour could result in a fine of up to £1,000, and you may be prosecuted if you are involved in an accident as a result of your tumour affecting your ability to drive.

Will I be able to legally drive again?

How long you will be unable to drive, and whether you are allowed to drive again, depends on a range of factors:

  • your tumour type
  • your tumour grade
  • where it is in the brain
  • the type of treatment you have had
  • your symptoms
  • risk of further symptoms, such as epileptic seizures or visual disturbances.

The DVLA /DVA will speak to your medical specialists about your individual circumstances to make a decision about your driving licence.

One of the major factors that will be considered by the DVLA in driver licensing for brain tumour patients is the prospective risk, or chance, of a seizure occurring as a result of either the tumour itself of the effects of treatments for a tumour.

If you voluntarily surrendered your licence, you can apply to have it back eight weeks before the end of the period for which you have been disqualified to drive, as long as your doctor has told you that you are fit to drive. You may be able to drive under Section 88 of The Road Traffic Act 1988, providing you have completed the specified time off driving for your condition and meet all of the following criteria:

  • Your doctor must have advised that you are fit to drive
  • You must have a valid driving licence and only drive vehicle that you are qualified to drive
  • You must meet any conditions that were specified on your previous licence
  • You have sent your fully completed application to the DVLA within the last 12 months
  • Your last licence was not refused or revoked for medical reasons
  • You are not currently disqualified from driving by a court, and were not disqualified as a high risk offender on or after the 1 June 2013

If your licence was revoked, the same process applies for getting a new licence, but you cannot start driving until the DVLA decides that you are medically fit to drive.

You may be given a 'medically restricted' licence that is valid for 1- 3 years. Three years is most common. At the end of this time, if your doctor confirms that you are still fit to drive, you can apply to have your licence renewed.


What if I had a brain tumour as a child?

If you had a brain tumour as a child, but have not had any recurrence of the tumour since, and do not have epilepsy as a result of your tumour, you should be able to have a driving licence.

Will the cost of my insurance increase?

You do have a 'duty of disclosure' to tell your insurers. They may ask you for more information and evidence that you are safe to drive, but they cannot increase the cost of your policy if your medical condition does not affect the risk of making a claim.

They could put up your insurance while you are 'getting used to a new disability or condition' or if you have had your car adapted. This is because it can cost more to repair an adapted car.

What if I don't get my licence back?

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

It can have both emotional and practical impacts.

Emotional help

Speak to your health team – they can provide psychological and practical support.

Speak to others in a similar situation, such as via a support group or The Brain Tumour Charity's closed Facebook group.

Practical help

You may be entitled to free or concessionary fares on public transport. Many areas also have community transport or charities that provide door-to-door trips to shopping centres or medical appointments.

If you are working, you may also be able to apply for an Access to Work /Access to Work(NI) grant to pay for taxi fares to work, if you are unable to use public transport because of your tumour.

Appeals procedure

If you do not agree with the DVLA/DVA's decision, you can write to them including your reference number and any new medical evidence to support your claim in order to ask them to review your case. If your request for a review is not sucessful, you can make a formal appeal. This has to be asked for within a certain time limit, and it is advisable to get legal advise first.

Resources and more details

For more information about:

  • how to contact the DVLA /DVA to give up or re-apply for your licence
  • how long you are likely to be unable to drive
  • car insurance or having your car adapted
  • how to find out about emotional and practical help which is available in your area
  • appeals procedure

please see the full fact sheet, which can be viewed or downloaded below.

Page last reviewed: 01/2017
Next review due: 01/2020

Page last reviewed: 03/2016

Next review date: 03/2019

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