Driving Regulations and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome

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1 Driving Regulations and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome Exceptional healthcare, personally delivered

2 What is obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome? Obstructive sleep apnoea means episodes of stopping breathing whilst you are sleeping. This may result in excessive and inappropriate daytime sleepiness. The diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome is confirmed by symptoms in combination with a sleep study. The doctor whose care you are under in the respiratory clinic will let you know if you have obstructive sleep apnoea. If a diagnosis of sleep apnoea syndrome has been made and the sleepiness is significant patients may be offered treatment in the form of a mask and air machine designed to keep the windpipe clear during sleep. This is called CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). If you are awaiting a trial of CPAP you should not drive and should inform the DVLA. What the DVLA says The DVLA is concerned about sleep apnoea because this condition often causes sleepiness and it is the DVLA s job to prevent unnecessary accidents. In English law you are responsible for your own vigilance when driving. Falling asleep at the wheel is a criminal offence and could lead to a prison sentence. The reason for the sleepiness makes no difference. The same law applies if you are sleepy because of normal sleep disturbance, for example caused by a new baby, or if you are sleepy due to a medical condition. The law assumes that you know when you are sleepy and therefore that you can choose not to drive when you are feeling sleepy. If you have a medical condition which has become worse since your licence was issued or you develop a new medical condition, you must inform the Drivers Medical Group of your condition as it may affect your fitness to drive. This includes ALL sleep problems causing excessive awake time sleepiness. Failure to do so is a criminal offence and is punishable by a fine of up to Driving Regulations and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome

3 This applies to: Group 1 (cars) Driving must cease if the sleep disorder is continuing to cause excessive awake time sleepiness. Driving will be permitted when satisfactory control of symptoms is achieved. Group 2 (lorries, buses, etc) Driving must cease if the sleep disorder is continuing to cause excessive awake time sleepiness. Driving will be permitted when satisfactory control of symptoms is achieved and confirmed by specialist opinion. This may appear harsh, but many conditions that lead to an increased risk of accidents lead to the suspension of driving licences, such as epilepsy, heart attacks, certain forms of diabetes, etc. How do I inform the Drivers Medical Group? You can inform them by post, phone, fax or Drivers Medical Group DVLA Swansea SA Tel: (Monday - Friday 8:15 am - 4:30 pm) Fax: Please inform them of your name, date of birth, driver no (if known) and medical condition. What happens once I have informed the DVLA that I have sleep apnoea? First, you will receive a form called SL1. This asks you what your diagnosis is, the date of your diagnosis, whether your condition is now controlled and whether you are free of excessive drowsiness occurring in inappropriate situations. Driving Regulations and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome 3

4 It requests details of treatment and whether the condition has ever caused you to see a specialist, as well as requesting permission to approach them. If there is a diagnosis of sleep apnoea syndrome and you cannot say you are free of excessive drowsiness occurring in inappropriate situations then the licence will be revoked and will not be returned until successful treatment has begun. If treatment has already been started successfully then there is no problem. What happens next? Following the return of SL1 to the DVLA they will send form SL2 to your specialist consultant or your GP. This asks the doctor to confirm the diagnosis and treatment and asks whether you are complying with the treatment, whether there are other conditions causing sleepiness, whether you continue to experience irresistible drowsiness in inappropriate situations and finally whether there are any other conditions that might affect fitness to drive. If the form is returned saying that everything is satisfactory then the DVLA will allow driving to continue. What about my insurance company? In the small print of any car insurance policy there will be a statement saying that you must inform the company of any circumstances that might alter the terms of the insurance, often specifically stating health related issues. A diagnosis of sleep apnoea syndrome would count as such a circumstance. If you experience sleepiness because of sleep apnoea, you are strongly advised to inform your insurance company. Failure to do so may invalidate your insurance policy. 4 Driving Regulations and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome

5 Reference Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) Available at: [accessed January 2007] Driving Regulations and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome 5

6 NHS Constitution. Information on your rights and responsibilities. Available at Driving Regulations and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome 7

7 How to contact us: See your appointment letter for the number to phone with any queries you may have If you or the individual you are caring for need support reading this leaflet please ask a member of staff for advice. North Bristol NHS Trust. This edition published May Review due May NBT002289

Sleep Apnoea and driving the facts. Developed by The OSA Partnership Group and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)

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