How Medical Conditions Can Affect Your Ability to Drive a Vehicle

Driving a vehicle is a big responsibility. One wrong move and you could end up in an accident. You could injure yourself, your passengers, and complete strangers who were following the rules of the road. Not to mention, dealing with the aftermath of an accident can be expensive!

There are things you shouldn’t do, like text and drive, but there are other, more serious conditions that can affect your ability to drive a vehicle. Fortunately, that doesn’t automatically mean you can’t drive a car at all.


Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects three million people in the United States. If you’re one of the one million people who experience uncontrollable seizures, a driver’s license will be out of your grasp. If you were to have a seizure behind the wheel, the consequences could be disastrous.

However, if your condition is well managed by medication and you haven’t experienced an episode in a long time, you may still be able to get your license. Depending on the state where you live and the extent of your condition, you may need a doctor’s evaluation, and you may have some restrictions on your license.

Sleep Disorders

Those with sleep disorders can be a danger behind the wheel. Narcolepsy is perhaps the most serious because it can cause you to fall asleep behind the wheel while you’re driving down the road. In order to get a license, you will probably need to get a note from a doctor stating that your condition is well managed and you are unlikely to fall asleep when driving.

The connection between sleep apnea and bad driving is relatively strong when it’s untreated. It can make you tired during the day, which can impair your driving. However, because the connection between this condition and bad driving isn’t direct, it probably isn’t going to affect your ability to get and keep a license.

It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to have a medical condition for sleep to interfere with your ability to drive. Other sleep situations that can make you a poor driver include:

  • Going to sleep later or getting up earlier than usual
  • A chronic reduction in sleep for one or more days in a row
  • Total elimination of sleep due to insomnia
  • Sleep fragmentation due to a new baby or a snoring partner
  • Circadian disruption due to shift work or jet lag

Substance Use

You should never drink and drive, but alcohol isn’t the only substance that can impair your driving. Other hard drugs can alter your ability to concentrate, as well as your ability to judge oncoming traffic and anticipate the actions of other drivers.

Marijuana is especially dangerous because it can impair your driving, but it is legal in many states. Just because you can legally partake in the use of this drug does not mean that it is safe to drive. It’s better to find another mode of transportation to avoid having your license taken away.


Diabetes is a fairly common condition, and most people don’t realize it can affect their ability to drive.

Hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia have to do with the amount of sugar in your blood. With hyperglycemia, you have high blood sugar and could experience fatigue, blurred vision, and a lack of concentration in the car.

Hypoglycemia means you have low blood sugar, which can make you feel tired, shaky, and nervous, which are all things you don’t want to feel while you’re driving in traffic.

You probably won’t face any roadblocks to getting your license if you’re diabetic, but you should maintain your condition to make sure you’re safe behind the wheel.


Dementia and Alzheimer’s can affect every area of your life, which includes your ability to drive. The aging process itself can also make it more dangerous to drive. The problem is, it can be hard to tell exactly when it’s time to take away mom or dad’s license.

A few signs it’s time for you or someone you love to stop driving include:

  • Stopping at green lights or corners without stop signs
  • Unknowingly running stop signs or red lights
  • Forgetting what traffic signs mean
  • Getting lost and having to ask for help getting back home
  • Hitting and sideswiping cars in parking lots

Driving a vehicle isn’t a right, and it shouldn’t put you or those around you at risk. However, just because you have a medical condition doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drive a car. No matter what your health challenges, you and your doctor should discuss your options.