Confusion over DVLA autism guidance

DVLA has issued a statement after widespread criticism of its apparent change in policy for drivers with autistic spectrum disorder.

Previously, the policy stated that drivers must tell the DVLA if they have an autistic spectrum disorder only if it “affects your driving”. That wording recently changed, and was put in a separate paragraph warning of the risk of a £1,000 fine or possible prosecution if these drivers are involved in an accident. 

Critics, including the National Autistic Society and the Labour MP Jess Phillips alleged that this was discrimination. Jane Harris, director of external affairs and social change at the NAS, said: “We are very concerned by the suggestion that people should inform the DVLA after being diagnosed as autistic. 

“Autism is a lifelong disability and if someone has passed their driving test we can’t see how an autism diagnosis would change their ability to drive.

“We have contacted DVLA who have told us that the online guidance was wrong previously and that autistic people should notify them of their diagnosis. We are questioning the justification of this directly with them.”

DVLA has responded with a statement: “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 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.” 

We’ll be exploring this issue in more detail in this month’s Driving Instructor.

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