Sleep Disorders and Driving
A reminder to medical practitioners that drivers suffering from symptomatic sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea syndrome (OSA) must inform DVLA and should cease driving until the condition has been effectively controlled.
Up to one fifth of accidents on motorways and other monotonous roads may be caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel. The most common medical cause of excessive sleepiness is OSA. Doctors may need to be alert to the possibility that a patient who complains of tiredness, may be suffering from a sleep disorder. This has particular importance where the patient drives professionally.
The condition occurs most commonly, but not exclusively, in overweight individuals, particularly those with a large neck size. Partners often complain about the snoring and notice that sufferers seem to have irregular breathing during sleep. Sufferers of OSA rarely wake from sleep feeling fully refreshed and tend to fall asleep easily when relaxing; both have implications for safe driving.
If a doctor requires advice about a particular case, or about fitness to drive in general, they can speak to a DVLA Medical Adviser, in confidence, during normal office hours by telephoning 01792 782337.
Recording advice given to patients on fitness to drive.
Doctors are reminded of the need to record clearly in the patient’s notes any advice given to patients with regard to their fitness to drive and/or of the need for the patient to notify DVLA. At a recent Coroner’s inquest some criticism and concern was expressed towards a doctor who had failed to record such advice contemporaneously, leaving a degree of uncertainty about subsequent liability.
It is in every doctor’s best interests to ensure that any “fitness to drive” advice is clearly recorded.
In addition, doctors are reminded of the guidance on confidentiality issued by the General Medical Council. This indicates that it would be viewed as a justifiable breach of confidentiality for a doctor to notify DVLA directly where a patient refuses to stop driving on the advice of a doctor, and poses a threat to public road safety.