Driving and mental disorders

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 professionals.


This module will go through the relevant guidance with the help of a few clinical vignettes.


Start the module


Please note: This module was last reviewed in 2014. A revision is being worked on, but in the meantime please be aware when completing the module that some of the guidance may have changed.

If you like this module, you may also be interested in:


Competence, capacity and decision-making ability in mental disorder by Dr Justine McCulloch and Dr Mark Taylor


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



BJPysch Advances: related articles for CPD Online



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