How to drive safely and legally with OSA
When people suspect they have OSA, or have been diagnosed, they want to know is where they stand with regards to driving. There is a wealth of misleading information on the Internet regarding this topic, so we have created this section to help clear up the confusion and misconceptions.
OSA and the DVLA: How to ensure you keep your license
If you fear OSA could cost you your job – don’t! Many people wrongly believe that having Obstructive Sleep Apnoea means the DVLA will take away your license – and this is simply not true. If you have OSA, or suspect you may have it, you do not have to worry about losing your license. One study found just 1% of OSA sufferers had their license removed.
The exact regulations vary depending on whether or not you are a commercial driver. For complete DVLA guidelines, please see the link posted below.
OSA is not the problem – tiredness is.
You alone are responsible for deciding whether you are fit to drive. It doesn’t matter whether you suspect you may have sleep apnoea, were up all night with a new baby, or watching election results.
If you are likely to be sleepy to the point where your driving could be impaired, you must not drive. If you do, you are breaking the law, and may invalidate your insurance. If your GP, your consultant, or any other medical professional tells you that you must not drive, you must not do so.
If you are experiencing some sleepiness during waking hours, go to your GP, and ask for a referral to a sleep clinic. If the sleep clinic diagnoses Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) — but says that any sleepiness during waking hours is not excessive — you can continue to drive and do not need to notify the DVLA. DVLA does suggest that if the sleepiness gets any worse, go back to your GP.
If the Sleep Clinic diagnoses moderate or severe OSA with excessive sleepiness, you must not drive until your sleep clinic is satisfied that your CPAP or other treatment has your sleepiness under control. You then need to notify the DVLA in writing.
It is important to remember that if you are suffering from a medical condition that affects your driving then you have an obligation to inform the DVLA about it. Failure to do so can invalidate your insurance and make you guilty of driving without a valid license.
In short – not informing the DVLA about your OSA is far more likely to see your license being taken away than reporting it. Considering how easy it is to inform the DVLA of both your condition and your treatment, there is little reason to risk that happening.
How OSA affects your driving insurance
While many drivers are aware that the DVLA should be informed about their OSA diagnosis, informing insurance companies seems to be largely overlooked. However, it is also very important and failure to do so could invalidate your insurance. Do not fear though – informing your insurance company should make no difference in your coverage or your premium.
If you are treated differently as a result of your OSA diagnosis, then they are breaking the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. If the DVLA considers you fit to drive and hold a license, then informing your insurer about your OSA should simply be a formality.
The Association of British Insurers and The Scottish Association for Sleep Apnoea both have information on their websites concerning these issues.