I haven't been here for a while and don't intend to stop, but I just wanted to inform people of something that has just happened to me to give fair warning.
A few months ago, having read that I should have informed DVLA of my diagnosis in spite of the fact that my condition had never affected my ability to drive (in fact, I think it had improved it), I duly downloaded the DVLA notification form and filled it in. I stipulated that my condition had never had an adverse impact on my driving ability. I have held my licence for over 40 years and have never had so much as a single point on it. No accidents. No speeding fines or convictions. No police stops. No DUIs. Nothing. Recently, I started to do minibus driving in my new job, taking some of the home's residents out on day trips. I had a driving assessment prior to that and was told I was an easy pass because I was safe, vigilant and confident. A good driver.
One of the questions asked on the form was whether I had visited my GP in the last six months for reasons related to my condition. I said 'Yes', because of the bullying issue in my last job which had caused so many problems and had led to extended sick leave (and my finally leaving the job). The sick notes I was given, ongoing, by my GP said 'Anxiety and stress related to ASC.' So, it was an honest answer.
A short time after I sent in the form, I got a letter from DVLA stating that they would be writing to my GP for verification.
Today, I got another letter from them. I cannot drive. My licence is cancelled and I must return it. I must also take any vehicle I may have off the road and apply for a SORN, as the tax is now also cancelled.
The reason? One of the questions asked of my GP was whether I had had any history of alcohol problems. She said 'Yes', which is right. The next question was about whether I had managed to control the problem for a period of longer than three months. She answered 'No'. Not really correct - but correct in terms of their definition of 'control', which basically means drinking less than the recommended weekly 14 units. My drinking has never affected my ability to drive quite simply because I would never drive whilst incapable through intoxication, or 'under the influence'. For DVLA purposes, though, that's beside the point.
I haven't actually seen my GP since Christmas, so she has no idea of how things have been for me since then. I'm sober now, have been for some time, and have no intention of restarting drinking. I'm happy in my new job and am turning my life around. In most respects, things have been on the up.
I've rung DVLA and had it out with them, civilly, and they've informed me the decision stands. I can't drive for six months - unless my GP is willing to provide evidence that she may not have given full enough information about me. When I get my licence back, too, I may have lost 'grandad' rights on it and just get the licence that everyone gets now, without the D1 category I need to drive the larger vehicles at work.
I've also rung my manager and explained the situation, and she's told me not to worry. But it looks bad. It looks like I've been deceiving them about my health and my driving, which I haven't. They know about my ASC and my MH history. They like the job I'm doing, so I don't think I need to worry about losing my job. But I'll have to explain it all, and it may make things difficult in other ways - not least because they've had to pay out for this driving assessment for a driving job I can no longer do. To all intents and purposes, it's as if I've lost my licence (albeit temporarily) for a DUI or something. This could have other impacts along the line with insurance, etc.
The bottom line is: I'm being penalised for doing nothing wrong. For being honest, in fact, and informing the correct authorities. In a reversal of the usual legal principle that applies in other cases, I'm being adjudged as guilty until I can prove my innocence. Surely, my driving record should be proof enough. Not so.
So... just to let you know what you might get if you let them know, as you are supposed to, and they write to your GP. Even if your condition has never affected your ability to drive, other aspects of your doctor's report may have an impact.
And you may end up without a licence - even if your driving record has been as long and as spotless as mine.
I hope you are all well.
Wherever the actual fault lies with this matter, I have today written the following letter to the Secretary of State for Transport:
'Dear Mr Grayling,
Earlier this year, I was informed via the National Autistic Society of a change in the law in regard to notifying DVLA of my Autistic Spectrum Condition diagnosis; in short, that it was now necessary to notify them even if my condition has never affected my ability to drive. I duly downloaded the notification form, completed it and sent it off, fully confident that there would be no issue. I have held my full car licence since December 1978 and in all that time I have never had a single point on it, nor had any speeding fines or convictions. Nor have I ever driven a car whilst under the influence of even the smallest amount of alcohol (i.e. under the permissible limit). It is simply not something I could do in conscience. I think, actually, that my ASC may have contributed to making me a better driver if anything, because I am meticulous and scrupulous about abiding by speed limits and other rules of the road. I do not even play music whilst I am driving because I like to focus fully on what I'm doing, without distractions. Two years ago, I had a MIDAS driving assessment in a job I had at the time, and passed it as an excellent and competent driver. I recently had a similar assessment in my current job, and also passed it without any issues. As part of my job with a disability charity, I have to drive disabled people (in either a car or SUV) for day trips. In short, I take my responsibilities as a driver very seriously. I think that my clean record of over 40 years testifies to that.
Following the submission of my notification, I received a letter telling me that DVLA had written to my GP for a report. Again, I had no reason to worry about this and was quite happy for the matter to proceed. Now, though, I have received a letter from the Drivers Medical Group informing me that my licence has been cancelled forthwith and that I must not drive until they are satisfied that I fulfill certain medical requirements. As I understand it, the issue concerns a 'history of alcohol misuse', and on my GP saying that I had not been able to control my alcohol consumption for a period of longer than three months. I admit that I have had an alcohol misuse issue in the past, but it has never been severe or persistent, nor has it ever affected me in either my work or my home life. Also, for reasons already stated above, it has never impinged upon my ability to drive. I take my responsibilities too seriously - as an employee, as a driver, and as a law-abiding citizen - to ever have wanted to take such a risk.
I have today spoken to my GP about this report. I haven't actually had cause to see her since Christmas 2018, so she had no knowledge of my medical history since then. I informed her that since that time I have not had any issues with alcohol and have actually been completely sober for some weeks now. I have a new job and a new life. I also, as stated, recently took on new driving responsibilities in my job - responsibilities that I have now had to surrender because of this decision to revoke my licence. This could actually put my job and therefore my livelihood at risk. My GP has asked me to take a blood test and has said that she will be writing to DVLA to confirm what I have said about my sobriety. In view of this, I hope the decision to revoke my licence can be overturned.
My complaint about this process, and my reason for writing to you, is that I feel that the DVLA's decision in my regard is at once highly presumptive and discriminatory. It seems to take no account of my clean driving record, nor of the fact that my autism has never had anything other than a positive impact on my ability to drive safely and legally. In effect, it feels as if this decision is a reversal of the legal principle upon which our justice system stands: instead of innocent until proven guilty, I am being adjudged as guilty until proven innocent. It has always been a source of great personal pride to me that I have managed to maintain a clean driving record for as long as I have. I now feel like I am being treated like a criminal. I am being penalised not for doing something wrong, but for actually doing the opposite and being honest with the DVLA about my autism.
I am now proposing to raise this matter as a human rights issue with the EHRC. I wanted to apprise you of this, and to ask if it would be at all possible for you to intercede in my behalf to request that the DVLA reconsider their decision and - upon receipt of a up-to-date report from my GP - reinstate my licence to me with expediency, and with all former driving categories intact. I thank you in advance for any assistance that you can offer to help me to settle this issue.
I think my GP should have contacted me prior to making her 'box-ticking' report. If anything, she was the one being presumptuous about my alcohol consumption since I saw her at Christmas. However, I still feel that the general principle stands. Autistic people are being discriminated against in this matter. Many people regularly exceed 14 units of alcohol a week. I work with people who openly admit to bingeing at the weekends, and to having done so for many years. I recently went to a send-off party for a colleague who has left, and everyone present (myself excluded) drank in excess of the weekly allowance in just that one Friday night session. They were nearly all drivers (though not on that night, of course). Four of them regularly drive for the charity, too. None of them have autism, of course. I think you can see the point I'm making.
Hi Martian Tom
I think that your letter is eloquent, forceful and, indeed, appropriate in that the DVLA is merely an agent for the Secretary of State for Transport and, as a matter of law, it is the Secretary of State, and not the DVLA, who has revoked your licence.
Another point that I neglected to make in my earlier post, and for which I apologise, is that what the DVLA has done is, on the face of it, inconsistent with the undertaking given by Julie Lennard the CEO of the DVLA. She said :
"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."
Presumably you only notified the DVLA that you were autistic, and not about any “misuse” of alcohol, and they then issued a medical questionnaire in which the “misuse” of alcohol was identified. In accordance with the undertaking, they should have destroyed that questionnaire but, instead, have acted, and in my view inappropriately, on it.