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Many Seizure-Prone People Continue to Drive

Epilepsy can put drivers at high risk for crashes, study warns

MONDAY, Oct. 30, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Many people with epilepsy whose seizures are poorly controlled continue to drive, even though they're at high risk for crashes, Florida researchers report.

In most cases, these individuals get behind the wheel because it's the only way they can get to work, according to a team from the University of Florida. That suggests that more must be done to help people with epilepsy stay both productive and safe.

The researchers surveyed more than 300 epilepsy patients in northeast Florida and southeast Georgia. They found that nearly 20 percent of those who had at least one seizure a year drove. Even more alarming, nearly 25 percent of patients who suffered daily seizures still drove occasionally.

"I thought the statistics would be lower than that and was surprised that so many with poorly controlled epilepsy continue to drive," study co-author Dr. Ramon Bautista, an assistant professor of neurology at the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville, said in a prepared statement.

"This has always been a problem for epilepsy patients because driving serves both a social and a practical purpose. And if motorists with epilepsy are caught driving when they're not supposed to be, their license can be taken away," he said.

Most of the patients in the study said they continued to drive -- not because they had achieved good seizure control or did not suffer any side effects from their medications -- but because they had to get to work.

"In many ways, we have all these nice rehab programs for epilepsy patients but part of the reason they don't become fully successful is because we fail to consider the more practical things -- like how they're going to get to work," Bautista said.

"These folks are not bad folks. They're not (driving) because they want to hurt someone. They're doing it because they need to work," he said.

The study appears in the current issue of Epilepsy & Behavior.

More information

The Epilepsy Foundation has more about epilepsy.

SOURCE: University of Florida, news release, October 2006
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