Summary

Objective

Driving regulations for people with seizures vary widely throughout the United States and the world. Maryland updated their guidelines in 2003 to reflect those of a U.S. consensus guideline requiring a minimum 3-month seizure-free period as well as an individual risk assessment by a Medical Advisory Board (MAB). This retrospective study provides the first analysis of outcomes after the implementation of the consensus guidelines and an assessment of their predictive validity through longitudinal outcome data.

Methods

MAB reviews and licensing records for Maryland driver applicants with seizures between 2004 and 2005 were reviewed, during which 254 first-time applicants were processed. The initial licensing decisions were assessed and the subsequent seizure recurrence and crash rates over the following 7 years were evaluated.

Results

The MAB approved driving for 74.8% of initial applicants; most had been seizure-free for over 6 months. Approved drivers had a longer median seizure-free period (563 days) compared to those who were denied (104.5 days, p < 0.01), and 22.7% of approved drivers had seizures recur during monitoring over the next year, although none resulted in crashes or deaths. Of applicants initially denied (n = 50), 89.3% were eventually licensed. Treating physicians recommended driving for 84.4% of applicants rejected by the MAB.

Significance

Maryland’s individualized system for assessing driving applicants with seizures resulted in a dynamic process of approvals and denials based on favorable and unfavorable risk factors and lengths of seizure freedom. Seizure recurrences were comparable to internationally accepted rates. Over the course of monitoring, most applicants were eventually licensed. Treating physicians recommended that nearly all their patient applicants be permitted to drive, which raises safety concerns for the 10 states that rely solely on physician recommendations. Further assessment is needed of the risk factors deemed favorable and unfavorable by the U.S. consensus guidelines.

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