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OSA and the DVLA - and 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 - this is simply not true. If you OSA, or suspect you may have it, you do not have to worry about losing your license. In reality one study found just 1% of OSA sufferers had had their license removed. It is actually very simple to guarantee keeping hold of your license, and here we explain the procedure, your obligations, and what the outcomes are. We will even explain how you can keep your time off work down to as little a fortnight.
OSA is not the problem - tiredness is
It is important to note that the DVLA are so much concerned about the condition itself, but the sleepiness that goes with it. Therefore if your OSA is being successfully treated, then you will no longer be suffering from the excessive sleepiness. Once your doctor has verified you are undergoing treatment the DVLA will have no problem with you continuing to drive. After that, once a year you will need your doctor to confirm you are still receiving successful treatment. It really is that simple.
To inform the DVLA about your condition, you simply fill in an SL1V form (you can download a PDF copy here). On this form you will be asked if the condition causes you to feel sleey, whether you are receiving treatment and whether it is working successfully. If all of these are being answered positively and honestly, then the DVLA will have no reason to rescind your license, and you will be clear to continue driving. More importantly, it means you will have no fear of being fined, invalidating your insurance or losing your license.
How long will I be unable to drive for?
It will take a few weeks for the DVLA to process the questionnaire and contact you again. You should be allowed to drive during this time as long as you meet all of the fitness to drive requirements, but it is highly advisable to speak to you doctor as to whether or not you should. That said, if you are successfully undergoing therapy for your OSA and are no longer feeling tired, then your GP will have little cause for concern and will most likely to allow you to continue driving in the meantime.
The only period that you can certainly not drive in is that between getting OSA confirmed and your GP confirming that you are receiving successful treatment for the condition. However the NHS will often (but not always) provide you with equipment on the same day as diagnosis if they are aware your livelihood depends on driving. This helps to keep your time off work down to a bare minimum, and can be as short as a week or two. It depends on which clinic you use for your treatment.
One your treatment is working and you no longer suffer from excessive daytime tiredness, your clinic can then confirm that you are using CPAP successfully to the DVLA. Once the DVLA have been notified of this you should get confirmation of being cleared to drive shortly afterwards. Then you can get back to your job as before - except now with your chances of having a potentially fatal accident greatly reduced. As a Group 2 license holder, you will be asked for an annual review - in short, going back to your clinic and getting them to confirm that your therapy is still going well. Doing this a little in advance can help make this process as smooth as possible, and should be little more than a formality.
1) You have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea
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 lead to a £1,000 fine, 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, and could cost you a small fortune and potentially a criminal record. Considering how easy it is to inform the DVLA of both your condition and your treatment there is little reason to risk that happening.
Those are the key facts about where you stand with the DVLA if you have OSA. Many people think that OSA immediately means you will have your license taken away – which is far from true. Very few do, and they are almost exclusively those who are not receiving treatment for their condition. As long as your are using CPAP to control your OSA, you have nothing to worry about. The key point that cannot be stressed enough is that not reporting your OSA to the DVLA is far more likely to cost you your license than if you do inform them.
Once you have got the all-clear from the DVLA, the only other technicality to worry about is contacting your insurance company. OSA should have no bearing on the conditions of your cover or your premium, but not declaring it could invalidate your insurance so it is important to let them know. You can read about OSA and insurance here.