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by Dr Madhavan Seshadri and
Dr Nadeem Mazi-Kotwal
Last reviewed: November 2014
Driving is an extremely skilled and
complex act that involves higher cortical functions. A person
driving a motor vehicle should be able to judge clearly and react
quickly when necessary; failure to do so could result in risks to
the driver or to others using the road.
Mental disorders can affect
judgement, concentration and reaction times, although the risk of
road traffic accidents in people with mental illness is only
marginally higher than in the non-mentally ill population.
There is a greater risk of road traffic accidents with alcohol
and substance misuse than in mental illness.
In addition, although
pharmacological treatment can reduce the driving-related risks
associated with mental disorders, it can also impair
driving skills due to the side-effect profile (around 10% of
people taking psychotropic medication are killed or injured in road
traffic accidents), with a few exceptions such as stimulant use in
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Impulsivity
and suicidal tendencies can further impair safe driving.
The Driver and Vehicle
Licensing Agency (DVLA) has a responsibility to ensure the safety
both of the public and of drivers, and the DVLA and the
General Medical Council (GMC) have provided guidance for medical
This module will go through
the relevant guidance with the help of a few clinical
If you like this module, you may also be
Competence, capacity and decision-making ability in
mental disorder by Dr Justine McCulloch and Dr Mark
Alcohol and the brain by Dr Anne
Lingford-Hughes and Ms Rosie Lees
Feeling better – lifestyle management for chronic
mental disorders by Dr Ursula Werneke
Book from RCPsych Publications:
Changing Minds: our lives and mental illness
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