Driving…Giving Epilepsy a Bad Name

This is an article we all should read:

Allegedly, a driver with Epilepsy in the Seattle area has been charged with vehicular homicide after slamming his vehicle at 70-mph into the rear of a vehicle at a traffic light, killing the man inside. No one will confirm if the driver was having a seizure at the time, but he DOES have a history of various traffic accidents. And, to add to the issues, the suspect’s blood was tested and he had high levels of anti-seizure drugs in his system.

So…what’s his excuse? Really. We are all aware of the rules and regulations as they apply in each state. Is it easy to not be able to drive when you have Epilepsy? No…but truly it’s a matter of profound safety, and if this is indeed true, we can all learn a great lesson or two.

I always nod my head when I’m speaking to someone with Epilepsy, and they tell me that they can drive because…’Even though they have seizures each day, they have an aura or feel them coming on so they can pull over if need be.’ In my opinion, that’s crazy.

The plain and simple truth is…if you have Epilepsy and if you have seizures regularly, hang up your car keys.

I understand the challenges, trust me. Work, errands, childcare, appointments with the doctor, freedom, a social life; heck even the optics of not being able to drive can be hard to handle. I have a nearly 5 year old little girl who has already been teased because ‘Mommy can’t drive a car.’ But, the way I see it…Mommy might take a life or two if Mommy got behind the wheel. So, I must accept the situation and make sure I’m organized and know who I can rely on to help me.

I hate to see these types of stories. Do we need better public transportation in many cities? That’s a resounding ‘yes’. Detroit is one of those cities! But still, I could never risk the lives of my family or the lives of those who are on the road near me.

If you have any questions about whether or not you should get behind the wheel, Epilepsy.com has a great state-by-state guide.

Don’t put yourself in the next headline like this one.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg August 30, 2010 at 10:34 am

you seem to have a very hard-line stance (perhaps I misinterpret…), and I spoke about my own feelings on this matter in my blog today (you inspired me!). :-)
If a state says “seizure free for a year and you can drive,” are you comfortable with a person driving? Or do you believe that someone who has had a history of seizures should not drive at all? I understand the hardline against people who are actively having seizures – that to me is a no-brainer. But I couldn’t tell where your stance ended?

Alysse August 31, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Thanks, as always, for the comments.
I guess you could say I have a ‘hard-line’ stance on this issue. I guess I have come to understand that there truly is no cure for Epilepsy, so someone that has had a history of seizures can truly have them at anytime. I’ve had to come to grips with this fact, and I’ve also realized that I will probably never drive again. So…I think I’m more or less realistic. It’s an incredible safety issue, and it has to do with reflexes and reaction time.
If someone is seizure-free for a long time, I guess that’s one thing, but I’m not in favor of someone driving who says, ‘they feel their seizures coming on and have time to pull over’.
But, again…it’s a matter of opinion!

Greg September 1, 2010 at 9:15 am

I can appreciate that, and honestly, I would say that in such a scenario I would agree with you. Having nocturnal seizures, I do not have any such aura or warning (I read somewhere that some people smell something before the onset?), but I don’t think I would want to drive if that were the case. Certainly not responsible for family or friends in my car, to say nothing of random strangers on the road.

Angela September 28, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Your blog is beautiful. My husband has partial/complex frontal lobe seizures and is not a candidate for surgery of any stripe. He has been on a revolving door of medicine with little success that begins to wear off. His epilepsy is slowly becoming resistant to medications, I fear.

I have often searched for a person with the insight of what it’s REALLY like to live with this, both from the perspective of the patient and the advocate. Thank you, thank you, thank you for addressing issues that couples dealing with this issue often face – driving, family, having children, being a parent with epilepsy, and the caregivers who love their epileptic family members without question.

I feel like I’ve met a friend who will understand the things I share with no one. Recently, my husband and I started carpooling – his seizures became more erratic and I asked him to let me start driving him to work and reluctantly he agreed. We’ve started to approach the topic of having a child together, but I am honestly terrified. I’m scared of not having the ability to care for him while pregnant and while handling our baby. I am also afraid that because of the unpredictability of his seizures that he could hurt the baby.

I’m not asking you for advice (unless you have some) but it’s great to know there is some one out there actually talking about this stuff!



Anthony Lowder April 5, 2011 at 4:14 pm


I just found your site today, and so far I am loving it! Little over 4 years ago my wife developed Temporal Lobe Epilepsy afte suffering bi lateral damage to her temporal lobes from severe Viral Enchephalitis. She has since had a right temporal lobectomy which also removed her right hippocampus. One year later she had a VNS and is also on 2 anti seizure medications. What I’m getting at is how, as a caregiver, husband and partner in raising our children convince her not only not to drive but not let that define her as a person. Yes she does still have seizures even though she doesn’t think so or explains them away…. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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