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Get The Facts

Driving after a brain injury

Information Services
 
 

Rehabilitation

Driving after a brain injury

For many, returning to driving is a major goal after a brain injury to regain independence and mobility. 

Unfortunately there are many aspects of a brain injury that could affect our ability to drive, including:

  • Reduced reaction time and poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Epilepsy and medical issues e.g. particular medications
  • Hearing and vision problems
  • Difficulty judging distances and disorientation
  • Memory problems
  • Poor judgment, impulsivity and poor self-control
  • Poor motor control and coordination
  • Partial paralysis.

 

In most countries, it is your responsibility to report any medical conditions such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or other type of brain disorder that could impact on driving - don't assume driving is okay because no one has advised otherwise. Contact your Brain Injury Association for information on local road rules and laws. 

 

Assessment and licensing

An assessment of driving skills is very important due to the risk of accidents. Some people may be advised not to drive but the decision may be reviewed after a certain amount of time. Others may be allowed to drive, but with certain conditions or only if the vehicle is modified e.g. a modified vehicle adapted for right-sided if a person has left-sided hemiplegia. 

 

Contact the licensing authority in your State to find out the requirements for returning to driving after an injury. Even if a driving assessment is not compulsory it is a good idea to get advice from the rehabilitation team on whether to get a special driving assessment from a doctor, preferably a specialist such as a neurologist or neurosurgeon. 

 

Self-check questions before driving

These are good questions to ask yourself before driving:

  • Do I feel well enough or alert enough to drive today?
  • What is the best time for me to set out and come home?
  • Can I handle the distance without fatigue?
  • Do I know the most appropriate route to take?
  • Is the car ready to drive e.g. petrol, water, air pressure?

 

Driver retraining programs

These programs may be available at major rehabilitation hospitals, community-based rehabilitation services, driver training schools or road and transport associations.

 

Alternatives to driving

Buses, trains and taxis are all alternatives to driving yourself, as is asking a friend or a family member for a lift. However, trains and buses can be inconvenient as well as possibly unsafe if you have problems with vision, hearing, coordination or problems coping with noisy or crowded environments. 

 

Check with your Local Brain Injury Association for any available:

- disability subsidies and funding for transport

- taxi discounts or subsidies

- remote area programs for getting to medical appointments

- pensioner or disability discounts on existing public transport. 

 

Medications, drugs & driving

Medication can have a positive or negative effect on driving. For example, a person with epilepsy may not be able to drive at all without medication and a driver with untreated depression may have poor concentration and decision making skills.

 

However, medications such as benzodiazepines for anxiety can have similar negative effects to driving while drunk. Discuss your medications with your doctor or rehabilitation team to see if they could affect your driving. 

 

Alcohol always has a negative impact on driving - after a traumatic brain injury the only safe practice is to avoid alcohol completely before driving. There can be very serious legal consequences if you have an accident and it discovered that you were unduly affected by medications or other drugs. 

 

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