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Driving after a Stroke

Getting out of the house allows, you, the stroke survivor a chance to regain independence, freedom, and control. Driving is often a major concern after a stroke especially if you drove prior to experiencing a stroke.

After a stroke, you may not realize that your ability to drive safely has been affected. The ability to drive is affected due to changes in motor abilities such as strength, coordination, and balance, vision; personality such as aggressiveness or impulsiveness; and cognition such as memory, ability to concentrate, and response time.

What are the current guidelines issued by the driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for people who have experienced a stroke?

  • Drivers of cars must not drive for at least 1 month after stroke or transient ischemia attack
  • Drivers of buses must not drive for at least 1 year following stroke or ischemia attack
  • All drivers should obtain medical permission before driving

What are some warning signs of unsafe driving?

Driving
  • You are driving too fast or too slow for road conditions or posted speed limits
  • You need help or instructions from passengers while driving
  • You do not observe traffic signs or signals
  • You make slow or poor distance decisions such as getting too close to another car
  • You get easily frustrated or confused while driving
  • You get lost in familiar areas
  • You have an accident
  • You drift across lane markings into other lanes
  • Other drivers honk their horns frequently

How can you tell if you are ready to drive?

  • Talk to your health care provider. He or she can tell you about how the stroke has affected you. Your health care provider can tell you if and when you are ready to resume driving. Keep in mind that it is dangerous and may be illegal to drive against medical advice.
  • Contact your State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your area. Ask what requirements apply to people who have had a stroke.
  • Look into driver's evaluation programs suggested by your health care provider
  • Get a Driver Medical Evaluation form from the DMV. This form must be filled out by your health care provider before your driving can be evaluated.
  • Have your driving evaluated by an occupational therapist in a behind-the-wheel driving test through your local DMV.
  • Contact your local DMV and ask about available local driver's training program and how to enroll. There is usually a fee for a driver's training program, but you will receive driving assessment and classroom instructions.

If you cannot drive, that does not necessarily mean that you cannot get out of the house.

What are some alternatives to driving?

Bus
  • Using public transportation such as taxis, buses, or trains.
  • Asking family members and friends to transport you to your destination.
  • Walking to your destination.
  • Participating in activities that do not necessitate driving such as hosting a get together at your home.

It’s not unusual for stroke survivors to want to return to driving. However, before you begin driving again, evaluate how it may affect you and others on the road.

The following are some websites to provide you with more information regarding driving following stroke:

Driving After A Stroke:
http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/olddrive/Stroke/index.html

Recovery After Stroke: The Ability to Go Places:
http://www.stroke.org/stroke-resources/resource-library/ability-go-places (Login Required)


References:

American Stroke Association. (2009). Patient fact sheets. Retrieved from, http://www.strokeassociation.org/

American Heart Association. (2009). When stroke happens: An overview. Retrieved from, http://www.americanheart.org/

Johnston, J., Stocks, S.J., Datta Chaudhuri, M., & Dey, P. (2004). Driving after a stroke: A study of recollection of advice and compliance with guidelines. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 11(8), 355-357.

The Stroke Association. (2010). Driving after a stroke.

Written in 2009 by Kalisha Ivey, MSN at the University of Toledo for the Caring~Web. Revised 2012.

Last Updated: 5/26/16