Mental Health Awareness Week: How Mental Health Can Affect Your Driving

Last Updated: 11th May 2017
Mental Health Awareness Week: How Mental Health Can Affect Your Driving

11th May 2017

This week, (8th-14th May) is Mental Health Awareness Week and it gives us an opportunity to discuss how mental health affects millions of us around the country. Studies conducted have found that reportedly only 13% of us live with high levels of good mental health. That means the majority of us suffer from some form of mental illness, possibly without many of us realising.

If you are suffering from mental health issues or suicidal thoughts and need someone to talk to, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 116 123.

A few mental health facts

In England, women reportedly are more likely to have common mental health issues and are twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. However, with regards to suicide, 78% of suicides in 2013 were men with 22% being women. A minority of parents reportedly suffer from mental health issues with 10% of mothers and 9% of fathers being diagnosed.

The issue with the statistics stated is that there are likely to be many hidden figures. Those people who do not discuss, report or are ever diagnosed with having a mental illness. This means that there are likely millions of us suffering in silence.

Driving and mental health

Cars are dangerous, as is discussed on many occasions with road safety campaign, speed awareness courses and the constant reports of road accidents. For those people who are suffering from severe depression and anxiety and are plagued with suicidal thoughts, driving is not the best option.

Statistics show that men are more likely to resort to more violent ways of committing suicide than women and cars are used as a method. This can include carbon monoxide poisoning or deliberately crashing their cars.

DVLA need to be told

Under certain circumstances and with some mental illnesses, the DVLA need to be informed if you have a condition. This is done for your own safety and the safety of the other drivers on the road. The first step for this to be done is for your doctor to identify your condition.

This means you have to ask for help. The problem many of us have with mental health is that it is unseen. It is inside our minds and therefore we cannot see any physical injury. This means that many of us don’t take it seriously because we don’t think anyone else will. This is a risk and asking a doctor for help is the best course of action to take.

If the doctor identifies a serious concern, they may advise that you inform the DVLA. If you don’t inform the DVLA of certain medical conditions including mental health conditions, you could face a fine up to £1000 if it affects your driving. Prosecution becomes a possibility if you are in an accident as a result. If a doctor advises that you inform the DVLA, the safest option for you is to follow that advice.

The following conditions often require you to inform the DVLA:

  • Severe anxiety or depression with significant memory and concentration problems, agitation, behavioural disturbance or suicidal thoughts
  • Hypomania or mania (which can be symptoms of bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder)
  • Acute psychotic disorder
  • Schizophrenia or long-lasting psychosis
  • Personality disorders

What happens next

When you come to tell the DVLA, you are required to complete a medical questionnaire that allows them to decide whether or not you need to surrender your licence. If they are unsure, you may be asked to undergo a medical and driving assessment. They will then decide what action to take.

The safest way to protect yourself and others is to be cautious and inform the DVLA. It usually takes around three weeks for a decision and in rare cases up to 90 days to get more information from you and your doctor. They can decide to do the following once they have all the necessary information.

  • Let you keep your licence or give you a new one
  • Give you a licence that is valid for 1, 2 or 3 years
  • Revoke your licence or refuse your application. This will happen if the DVLA does not feel you are fit to drive that moment. In this case, they will explain their decision and advise you on when you can reapply. They should send you a notice explaining how you can appeal their decision.

Mental health doesn’t have to stop you driving

If you do suffer from a mental health condition, it doesn’t have to stop you from driving. Cam Walton lives with mental health issues and is a racing driver. He claims that racing helps him cope with his condition because it allows him to fully focus on the task at hand and he says “Putting my helmet on and getting out on track is the best way to find peace”.

Mental health conditions don’t have to define us and seeking help and talking about it is a positive step forward. If you want to talk to someone, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123.

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