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Thomas DeLattre and Glen D. Wieland

Can you drive if you have narcolepsy?

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2021 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

It isn’t difficult to imagine why those living with narcolepsy have a greater chance of being in an accident due to falling asleep at the wheel. But Florida drivers also should be aware of the other sleep-related hazards like fatigued driving that also come into play when you mix this condition with operating a motor vehicle.

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that makes it hard for a person to stay wakeful over extended time frames. It doesn’t matter how well rested they are; there’s still a risk of becoming debilitatingly drowsy or even dosing off completely, often with little to no warning. As one can imagine, this gets in the way of countless basic daily activities that most of us take for granted.

In the U.S., it’s a disorder that affects about 1 in every 2,000 individuals. And yet, the startling estimation is that a mere quarter of those dealing with the condition have actually know they have it and are seeking treatment.

And daytime drowsiness is just the tip of the iceberg: Narcolepsy is a sleep condition that causes a broad range of unpredictable symptoms. Each poses its own unique risks not just to the person with the condition but also everyone else on the road who might be involved in a motor vehicle accident. Common symptoms include:

  • Sleep attacks
  • Cataplexy
  • Sleep paralysis

Getting behind the wheel with narcolepsy

In the vast majority of cases, so long as the individual has a good sense of their condition and they’re able to manage their fatigue, driving is a perfectly safe activity for them to perform. Fatigue management essentially means that the person knows what an attack feels like and is able to predict when they usually happen.

It is, though, extremely important for these individuals to be aware of their own limitations – even more than the average driver, who must still exercise caution and responsibility when choosing whether or not to drive if you haven’t gotten enough sleep to prevent a car crash. Similarly, those with narcolepsy have to exercise the same type of caution – but on a daily basis.

Many who have never had to deal with this challenge wonder whether those with narcolepsy even have the option of driving themselves due to the highly unpredictable and hazardous nature of the symptoms. Provided the individual is able to manage their condition, narcoleptic people are oftentimes perfectly capable of driving safely.

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