Prior to being diagnosed with epilepsy, 5% of people with a type of epilepsy called focal epilepsy had a seizure while driving, according to a new study published in the June 7, 2023, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
For the study, researchers identified 447 people with focal epilepsy. Participants had an average age of 29 when they experienced their first seizure.
Researchers looked at participants’ medical records prior to their epilepsy diagnoses. They found 23 people, or 5% of participants, experienced one or more seizures while driving, for a total of 32 seizures while driving prior to diagnosis.
Of the 23 people, seven people, or 30%, had more than one seizure while driving prior to diagnosis. For six people, or 26%, their seizure while driving was their first-ever seizure.
The consequences of these seizures while driving included 19 motor vehicle accidents and 11 hospitalizations for injuries ranging from a tongue bite and a dislocated thumb to a near drowning.
Researchers found that the average time from experiencing a first seizure to experiencing a seizure while driving was 304 days. The average time between a person’s first seizure while driving to being diagnosed with epilepsy was 64 days.
People who were employed had a four times greater risk of experiencing a seizure while driving prior to diagnosis than those who were not employed.
People who experienced non-motor seizures, where movement stops and a person may simply stare, had a nearly five times greater risk of experiencing a seizure while driving prior to diagnosis than those who had a motor seizure, which can include sustained jerking movements or muscles becoming weak or alternately becoming rigid.