The spotlight is on mental health awareness globally on World Mental Health Day 10 October.
According to the NHS, 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children in the UK experience mental illness; unfortunately depression and anxiety have become a part of everyday life for many.
Mental health is just as important as physical health when it comes to driving. Having a mental illness doesn’t automatically mean you’re not a safe driver but there might be a need to take extra care on the road to stay focused and well to drive.
Do I need to tell someone about my mental health condition if I drive?
You’re required to let the DVLA know about certain mental health conditions so that they can determine if it’s OK for you to keep your licence. You might be asked to have an assessment or a doctor’s opinion could be the determinant in how much your mental health might affect your driving.
You also need to tell about any pre-existing conditions that affect your driving when applying for car insurance.
Many drivers are nervous about telling their insurer about a mental health condition in case it affects their premium but if it’s already declared to the DVLA, the chances are it won’t have an impact. Not declaring a pre-existing condition may impact any claim you make or result in your cover being invalid.
Rethink Mental Illness provide good advice on mental health conditions and driving if you’re unsure about what to do.
What can I do to stay safe on the road?
1. Sleep well
The loss of focus and drowsiness you might experience when driving whilst tired could be compared to being over the drink-driving limit. Especially before long journeys, it’s important to get a good night’s sleep. Being tired also impacts your mood – it’s hard to feel stable with low energy levels.
2. Plan your journey
It’s always easier to focus on driving safely if you’ve prepared for the journey and you know where you’re going, especially if you’re not at your best. We recommend taking a 20-minute break for every 2,5 hours of driving, or sooner if you feel tired.
3. Look at other ways to travel
If your wellness and energy levels fluctuate, learn to recognise the bad days and find other methods of transportation. Never drive if you have doubts about your ability to drive – safety comes first.
4. Ask for help
Mental health conditions and being open about mental health are more common now. There is always help available if you’re feeling low or stressed, or have a mental health condition. Go to your GP or reach out to mental health charities, talk to your family and friends or let your tutor know.