Do drivers with epilepsy have higher rates of motor vehicle accidents than those without epilepsy?


  • MVAs were 26 times more likely to occur with drivers with other medical conditions compared to DWE.
  • When DWE self-reported MVA occurrences, there was no increase in expected MVA rates.
  • When MVA rates in DWE were ascertained by objective measures, rates were doubled from expected.
  • Adjusting MVA rates in DWE using ‘miles driven’ would also increase the accuracy of the evidence.
  • Because of varied methodology, evidence for DWE MVA rates is not precise enough to form conclusions.



We sought to understand the magnitude of the risk that drivers with epilepsy (DWE) contribute to motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) compared to other drivers.


We performed an evidence-based, systematic review using the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) guideline methodology.


Contributory evidence consisted of six Class II studies and one Class III study. Two articles reported a trend toward a decreased rate of overall MVA rates for DWE when compared with the general population with a relative risk (RR) of 0.86 (95% CI: 0.65–1.14) (Class III) and a RR of 1.00 (95% CI: 0.95–1.06) (Class II); both studies used patient report to ascertain MVA rates. Three Class II studies reported either a trend toward or an increased risk of MVA rates for DWE when compared with the general population with a RR of 1.62 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.95–2.76), as ascertained by insurance, emergency department, and physician reporting databases, a RR of 1.73 (95% CI 1.58–1.90), as ascertained by police reports, and a RR of 7.01 (95% CI 2.18–26.13), as ascertained by casualty department visits. One Class II study showed that, compared to fatal crashes with DWE, fatal crashes were 26 times more likely to occur because of other medical conditions and 156 times more likely to occur because of alcohol abuse. Motor vehicle accident crashes due to seizures in DWE occurred in one out of every 2800 MVAs, as reported in another Class II study.


The evidence for the difference in MVA rates in DWE compared to the general population is inconsistent, and no conclusion can be made. Important methodological differences across the studies contribute to the imprecision. Future research should be performed using objective measures rather than self-reporting of MVAs by DWE and “miles driven” as the denominator to calculate MVA rates.

Written in part by Puja Naik , MD

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