Driving after a brain injury
For many, returning to driving is a
major goal after a brain injury to regain independence and
Unfortunately there are many aspects of a brain injury that
could affect our ability to drive, including:
- Reduced reaction time and poor concentration
- 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
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
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
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
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
- 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
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.