Purpose: The driving regulations in Japan were amended in 2002, which lifted the absolute ban on driving by persons with epilepsy (PWE) and granted licenses to PWE after a 2-year seizure-free period.
Methods: To survey the effect of the new driving regulations, we sent questionnaires both to the driving authorities (DAs) and to doctors of the Japan Epilepsy Society (JES).
Results: Around 1,400 PWE legally obtained a driving license within 1 year after the amendment, licenses were rejected in 157, and 61 had the license withheld for <6 months. In most cases, the attending doctor assessed fitness for driving; 171 doctors responded to the questionnaire. One third of them commented on a positive change in attitude of PWE with respect to driving. Their main remarks included the need to shorten the seizure-free period to qualify for fitness to drive and the need for special guidelines for conditions such as rare seizure occurrence, recently diagnosed epilepsy, or reflex epilepsy. Problems of assessment identified included difficulty in deciding the time for reassessment, distress of PWE over cancellation of license, cost of the assessment, responsibility of the assessing doctors in case of seizure recurrence, and protection of privacy. They requested the DAs to promote publicity about the information and asked the JES to establish a guideline for assessing fitness to drive.
Conclusions: The results highlighted the need for cooperation between the DAs and the JES for further amendment of the regulations as well as the importance of education for the public, patients, and professionals.