How Do Seizures Affect Driving?

After she fled the scene of a fatal wreck on Lee Roy Selmon Expressway earlier this month, a 29-year-old driver seemed to exhibit all the signs of intoxicated driving. Along with traveling at high speeds and fleeing the scene, she was also sweating heavily, confused and disorientated, and unable to successfully perform field sobriety tests. Her attorney, however, claims that she wasn’t under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. Instead, he says that the driver had a seizure before she plowed into another vehicle, killing a Tampa family of three.

Causes, Symptoms, and Effects

A seizure occurs when there is abnormal electricity in the brain. Seizures are not a disease by themselves, but are the symptoms or side effects of another medical condition. A frequent cause is epilepsy, a type of neurological disorder, but other causes of seizures can include:

  • Brain infections, like meningitis
  • Brain tumors
  • High fevers, particularly in children
  • Abnormal levels of sodium or glucose

Seizures can be relatively mild, causing only a minor loss of awareness. These are called absence seizures, or petit mal seizures. However, the most common subset of seizures is tonic-clonic or grand mal. These types of seizures can cause convulsions, limb stiffness, or even a temporary pause in breathing.

Convulsions, or sudden, irregular body movements caused by involuntary muscle contractions, are commonly associated with seizures. However, seizures can cause a wide range of other symptoms, including:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle stiffness or rigidity
  • Confusion
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Dilated pupils
  • Inability to talk or form coherent sentences

Driving Restrictions

Many of these symptoms present obvious issues if a person suffers from a seizure while driving. This is why there are laws that limit the driving abilities of people who suffer from seizures. In Florida, a person  can be licensed to drive after a two year period of being seizure-free. If they are under regular medical supervision, they can apply to drive again after a one year seizure-free period, and must submit to a follow-up medical evaluation a year after their approval.

For people with seizures, the driving limitations can be very challenging, and may lead to a loss of independent or income. But because they know that a seizure could cause them to be a danger to others on the roads, many people try to find ways to deal with their driving limitations.

Still Reckless

The driver who killed the family on the Selmon Expressway had reportedly suffered two seizures earlier in the day. Knowing the effect that a seizure could have on her driving abilities, she still chose to drive home anyway. She now faces three counts of manslaughter. While she can’t really be faulted for having seizures, she still made a reckless choice to get behind the wheel, even when she knew her condition could endanger others. Her medical condition may complicate the situation, but ultimately, she likely made her own reckless decision to drive. This recent crash is another sobering reminder that, no matter your personal situation, you should always think carefully before getting behind the wheel!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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