Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency

We have updated this news story as it has developed. 

Update: 08.03.2019

The DVLA has clarified their guidance for autistic drivers, following much confusion and concern from autistic people. We have also updated our own information and advice.

Julie Lennard, Chief Executive of the DVLA, wrote to us yesterday to apologise again for the confusion and to confirm that autistic drivers only need to inform the DVLA of their diagnosis if they believe their autism could affect their driving.

The DVLA has also provided welcome clarity on what happens next for the autistic drivers who have already contacted them: "The number of people who contacted us over this issue was low, and we are now assessing each case as some of those will have notified their condition because it affects their driving or they may have notified us of other medical conditions.

"We will be writing to the relevant drivers to confirm whether their condition affects their driving and only if it does will medical investigations be undertaken. Any unnecessary medical questionnaires that people have submitted during this time will be destroyed."

Our reaction

Tim Nicholls, Head of Policy at the National Autistic Society, said: "We welcome the DVLA’s apology for this confusion – and their clarification that autistic people only need to disclose their diagnosis if they believe their autism affects their ability to drive.

"We contacted the DVLA to ask for urgent additional assurances as many autistic people were understandably still very concerned about what happens next, including whether they could face the possibility of being fined for not disclosing their diagnosis. We said they should write to everyone affected to make things clear.

"The DVLA’s response should mean that no autistic person will be penalised because of this situation. The DVLA have told us they will now be writing to autistic drivers who have been affected, explaining the guidance and asking if they wish to proceed with their disclosure. All disclosures where their diagnosis does not affect their driving, will be destroyed. We encourage the DVLA to make sure this happens as soon as possible and would like to work with them to make sure their officials understand autism so we can prevent any similar mistakes in the future.

"We have updated the information about driving on our website. In the meantime, if you still have questions, we recommend you contact the DVLA."

The DVLA’s response

The DVLA, said: "There was inconsistent advice on GOV.UK concerning the need for drivers with an ASD to notify the DVLA of their condition. Attempts to clarify the guidance on 15 February caused confusion and the website was amended on 4 March. We’re sorry for any confusion or concern that has been caused. The online advice for both drivers and medical professionals has now been amended to make clear that a driver who has an ASD only needs to tell us if their condition could affect their driving.

"The number of people who contacted us over this issue was low, and we are now assessing each case as some of those will have notified their condition because it affects their driving or they may have notified us of other medical conditions.

"We will be writing to the relevant drivers to confirm whether their condition affects their driving and only if it does will medical investigations be undertaken. Any unnecessary medical questionnaires that people have submitted during this time will be destroyed."

Previous editions of this story

04.03.2019

On Monday, 4 March, the DVLA put out a statement on Twitter saying: Statement from DVLA, “In our attempt to clarify the advice for drivers with autism spectrum disorders we’ve clearly muddied the waters and we’re very sorry for that. We have amended the advice on https://GOV.UK for both drivers and medical professionals which make it clear that a driver who has an autism spectrum disorder only need tell us if their condition could affect their driving.” @Autism @ADHDFoundation @JoPlattMP @npaa_uk @jessphillips”
 
We are following up with the DVLA and will be updating our website when we have this information.
 
Tim Nicholls, Head of Policy at the National Autistic Society, said: “While we welcome the DVLA’s clarification and recognition that not all autistic people need to disclose their diagnosis, there are still many outstanding questions from us and autistic people. Autism is a lifelong disability and, if someone has passed their driving test, we can’t see how a subsequent autism diagnosis would change their ability to drive. In particular, we want to know exactly what autistic people need to do next – especially if they have already contacted the DVLA and been told to return a form or face a fine. We are calling on the DVLA to ensure no autistic driver could be fined due to the organisation’s mistake.
 
“Unsurprisingly, many autistic people are getting in touch with us, as they remain deeply concerned about what will happen now, as they were told last week they could be fined for not disclosing their diagnosis. The DVLA need to urgently issue clear guidance outlining the whole process to autistic people.
 
“We have updated the information about driving on our website and will keep it updated as we find out more."

Our original news story

04.03.2019

There has been a sudden and unacceptable change in advice if you are an autistic driver, and the DVLA have now confirmed that people have to disclose their autism diagnosis. 
 
We can see no reason for defining autism as a ‘disclosable condition’, which means making people tell the DVLA after being diagnosed. And, understandably, most people followed the information on the Gov.uk website, which it now turns out was incorrect, but had said that you only had to disclose an autism diagnosis if it affected your ability to drive. 
 
We believe that as autism is a lifelong disability, if someone has passed their driving test, an autism diagnosis cannot change their ability to drive. As, Laura James, autistic ambassador for the National Autistic Society, says: “We’re upset on a number of levels, but the lack of communication is horrifying as we’ve all potentially been driving illegally since they changed the rules. Also, we were all autistic when we passed our tests, which are obviously designed to test people’s skills and ensure they are safe to drive, so this change seems nonsensical.”

What are we doing?

We have contacted DVLA, who have told us that the ‪‪Gov.uk online guidance was wrong previously and that autistic people should notify them of their diagnosis. ‬‬
 
We are questioning the justification for this directly with them, as many of our supporters are very concerned as they were not previously aware that they needed to do this. We don’t believe that the DVLA guidance reflects the potential impact of autism on driving properly and needs to be amended. Also, while this is being considered, we are calling for the DVLA to make sure that no-one is fined.
 
We have updated the information about driving on our website and recommend anyone who is concerned should contact the DVLA. 

What do you need to do?

The Gov.uk guidance now states that autistic people must notify the DVLA of their autism diagnosis. We are challenging this policy and why the information on the Gov.uk website has been changed. However, if you don’t disclose, there is a risk you could be fined up to £1000. We would therefore advise that you inform the DVLA about your autism diagnosis using their M1 form. We are also working to ensure the DVLA updates this form, so it fits the needs of autistic people using it to inform the DVLA about their diagnosis. There is more information here about what happens when you tell the DVLA. Read more information on driving.

We are fully supporting a petition which requests that an autistic diagnosis should only be notifiable to the DVLA if there is evidence that is affects someone’s ability to drive.
 
SIGN PETITION

Please note this is not a National Autistic Society petition and we currently have no information about how the petitioner plans to use or share this petition but we will update this story once we know more.