Driving After Stroke
Driving After Stroke
Driving after stroke can be a daunting task. It is not only a major concern of individual safety, but, also public safety on the roads. Given the emotional, physical and financial burden of stroke on the stroke survivor’s family, it is, but natural for the survivors to want to get back to work as soon as possible. Often survivors don’t realize the difficulties that they might have when driving after a stroke. Some may not know all of the effects of their stroke. Driving against doctor’s advice is not only dangerous, but also illegal.
How do I know if I can drive?
Many-a-time, the survivors are so keen to get back to normalcy that they ignore some of the signs and symptoms of unsafe driving. After all, they had been doing that for years before the stroke.
Ask your family if they have noticed changes. Those around you may notice changes in your communication, thinking, judgment or behavior that should be evaluated before you drive again. They often have many more opportunities to observe changes than others do.
What are the signs and symptoms of unsafe driving?
- Drives too fast or too slow for road conditions
- Needs help or instructions from passengers
- Doesn’t observe signs or signals
- Makes slow or poor distance decisions
- Gets easily frustrated or confused
- Often gets lost, even in familiar areas
- Has accidents or near misses
- Drifts across lane markings into other lanes
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)/Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) sets the rules. After a stroke or TIA you must stop driving immediately, but for many people this is temporary. It is possible to return to driving as long as it is safe to do so and the correct procedures are followed. The DVLA produce a factsheet, Car or motorcycle drivers who have had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA). This outlines when you have to inform them that you have had a stroke. This guide also applies in Northern Ireland and your medical practitioner may refer to these when advising you.Cars or motorcycles
If you have a licence to drive a car or motorcycle (category B licence) you are not allowed to drive for at least one month after a stroke or TIA. After a month you may start driving again if your doctor is happy with your recovery. If you have had a number of TIAs over a short period of time you will need to wait until you have not had any TIAs for three months before returning to driving. You will also need to notify the DVLA/DVA.
If you have a licence to drive a large goods vehicle (LGV) or a passenger carrying vehicle (PCV) you must tell the DVLA immediately that you have had a stroke. You are not allowed to drive this type of vehicle for one year. After this time you may be able to resume driving, but this will depend on how well you have recovered and also on the results of medical reports and tests.
Specially adapted cars
Even if you have physical disabilities following your stroke, it may still be possible for you to drive. There are various vehicle adaptations and motoring accessories that can make driving possible and more comfortable. Specialist mobility centres can carry out assessments and provide advice about making adaptations to your vehicle which can enable you to return to driving. They can also provide assessments for passengers who have disabilities, and information on how to safely lift wheelchairs in and out of a car.
Pre-driving assessment tools
1. History to determine previous motor vehicle accidents, number of miles driven, psychosocial aspects, medical conditions and current level of psychological functioning
2. Physical examination to identify subtle physical conditions
- Assess joint mobility of neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, knees and ankles
- Assess upper and lower muscle strength manually
- Assess upper and lower coordination through finger-nose, heel to shin and rapid alternating motion
- Current medication
- Visual fitness
- Mental status
3. Neuropsychiatric testing
4. Off-road driving testing (simulator)