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  • Emma Hallett

How do you know if you are fit to drive?

Lots of people seem to be ill at the moment so it put me in mind of the part of the National Standards for Driving that talks about being fit to drive - but what does this really mean?

Physical health

We all get ill from time to time and it’s not that we can’t drive as soon as we get the sniffles but we need to think about how our physical health affects our ability to drive safely. Reaction times will be affected if you are tired, if you have a headache or a cold as well as with more serious health conditions. If you have taken medication to relieve symptoms does this cause drowsiness? Do you need to change your route? Do you need to postpone any long journeys? Can you take an alternative mode of transport? At the very least think about driving slower and leaving extra space. It is your responsibility to check that you are capable of driving every time you get behind the wheel.

Long term conditions

Obviously if you have a long term health condition this may need to be reported to the DVLA and may mean you are given a restricted licence or prevented from driving (see separate post). If you are living with a long term condition you may find there are some days when you struggle and others when you feel well. You will know how your condition affects you but you need to be honest with yourself and only drive on the days when you are well enough.

Emotional wellbeing

There may be times when you are struggling with your mental health or even just feeling stressed. What can you do before you set off to ensure you are fit to drive? Could you allow extra time or take an easier route so the stress doesn’t build up during the journey? It is possible to take an alternative mode of transport? Could you minimise distractions in the car so you can concentrate more easily? Emotional distractions can be just as serious as physical ones when you are behind the wheel. Even when you are a confident and experienced driver driving should still be given all your attention.


Prescription and over the counter medications sometimes come with warnings about driving so always read the leaflet to check you are safe to drive. It is illegal to drive with certain prescribed medications in your system so check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure. Obviously illegal drugs and driving are a bad idea and the police can test at the roadside for some drugs. There is a drink drive limit of 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath or 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in England which theoretically means you can have some alcohol in your system and be legal. However, it’s very difficult to work out how much you can drink and still be legal. Even a small amount of alcohol will affect your ability to drive safely and the affects can last much longer than you may think. If you are driving the safest thing to do it not to drink at all.

So what’s the best way to make sure you are fit to drive? Every time before you start the engine think carefully about how you are feeling and whether anything might affect your ability to drive safely. Well before you plan to drive think about whether you might need extra time or whether you should really have a drink. If you’re not sure, it’s best not to drive. Most importantly, be honest with yourself!

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