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DVLA Guidelines for Driving with Sleep Apnoea

DVLA Driving Rules with Sleep Apnoea


As from October 2017 THE DVLA RULES HAVE CHANGED.  We stress this, because many people diagnosed prior to 2017 may have been given different advice which is no longer relevant to people diagnosed from October 2017, hence well-meaning but confusing advice is often given - in fact at one time anyone with sleep apnoea did always have to report this to the DVLA.

The new changes, in a nutshell, state that people with daytime sleepiness who have suspected or diagnosed sleep apnoea, first and foremost, MUST NOT DRIVE. However, this is the rules of the highway whether people are tired through a medical condition or not!  The DVLA state that "falling asleep at the wheel is a criminal offence and may lead to a prison sentence."  Furthermore, the danger is not just about falling asleep at the wheel, but people with daytime sleepiness often have lapses of concentration or have slow reflexes which can lead to motor accidents.

The following image has been taken direct from the DVLA's website from this link where you can find more information and also view and download the 'Tiredness Can Kill' (INF 159) leaflet.

DVLA Image to Guidelines

Please read the following very carefully:-

  • For people diagnosed with mild, moderate or severe sleep apnoea WITHOUT "EXCESSIVE SLEEPINESS HAVING, OR LIKELY TO HAVE, AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON DRIVING", the DVLA DO NOT need this reporting and you can continue to drive as normal.
  • For people diagnosed with mild sleep apnoea "WITH EXCESSIVE SLEEPINESS HAVING, OR LIKELY TO HAVE, AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON DRIVING" you MUST STOP DRIVING until you are on treatment and the daytime sleepiness lifts, but the DVLA do not need this reporting unless symptoms cannot be controlled within 3 months.
  • For people with moderate to severe sleep apnoea "WITH EXCESSIVE SLEEPINESS HAVING, OR LIKELY TO HAVE, AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON DRIVING" you MUST STOP DRIVING and MUST INFORM the DVLA when advised to do so by your sleep clinic, and the DVLA will liaise with your sleep clinic as to satisfactory treatment so that they can approve you to drive and with reviews every 3 years or annually if you drive for a living. (People diagnosed with sleep apnoea before October 2017 are not on this review system unless they drive for a living).

For people with suspected sleep apnoea "WITH EXCESSIVE SLEEPINESS HAVING, OR LIKELY TO HAVE, AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON DRIVING" they must stop driving and then follow the above rules when a diagnosis is confirmed.

Just to stress again, that people who have or suspect sleep apnoea WITHOUT "EXCESSIVE SLEEPINESS HAVING, OR LIKELY TO HAVE, AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON DRIVING" can continue to drive as normal and DO NOT have to report this to the DVLA.

Whilst we wish to support you with this, we at the Hope2Sleep Charity are grateful that SATA (the Sleep Apnoea Trust Association) have taken on the huge task of both debating this direct with the DVLA and being willing and experienced in this area to support people in greater detail  It is strongly advised that you read SATA's advice BEFORE contacting the DVLA and their recommendation is to write to the DVLA rather than ring or email.  We too will provide any further updates, as advised by SATA, and edit this article. 

Please also be advised by your own sleep clinic, but do make yourself familiar with the rules, as even some sleep clinics get confused.


Motor Insurance

Even if your sleep apnoea does not require you to notify the DVLA in accordance with the most recent October 2017 guidelines, to be safe SATA advise informing your insurance company, as usually in the small print it says something like "you have a duty to inform your insurance company of changes to your health."  

It is advisable to say you have sleep apnoea without excessive sleepiness and, therefore, it is not a DVLA notifiable condition, as the DVLA are only interested in sleep apnoea with excessive sleepiness having or likely to have an adverse effect on driving.  Many insurance companies do not charge extra on the policy for people who have even had to notify the DVLA as with good treatment for sleep apnoea your daytime sleepiness should be under control.  We have heard of some people who have shopped around for better cover in the unlikely event of being charged extra.


© Hope2Sleep Charity - Original Article February 2020