Driving might not be possible for everyone after brain injury, but for many people it’s a realistic target that can greatly increase independence and quality of life. As a complex and potentially dangerous activity, it is important that everyone approaches driving carefully and follows the legal requirements.
Here, we answer some of the helpline’s most frequently asked questions on driving.
Driving is a complex activity requiring cognitive and physical skills, as well as the ability to co-ordinate these. Some of the key skills that driving relies on are commonly affected by brain injury, such as being able to react quickly to changing situations on the road, remembering routes, processing different things simultaneously and concentrating for sustained periods of time.
Dizziness and balance problems may cause difficulties with the motion of driving, while visual problems may affect a driver’s field of vision. The risk of experiencing a seizure while driving can also make it unsafe for survivors with epilepsy to drive.
Brain injury survivors who have difficulty managing their emotions may react worse to stressful situations that may arise when driving.
A survivor’s ability to drive may change over time as the effects improve or worsen.
By law, you must tell the licensing authority (the DVLA in England, Scotland and Wales and the DVA in Northern Ireland) about your brain injury, as they are responsible for making the decision on whether you are safe to drive or not. You can notify the relevant authority by using the gov.uk website, or the NI Direct website in Northern Ireland.
You should also tell your vehicle insurance provider about your brain injury.
It can take over six weeks in some cases to hear back from the licensing authority. In the meantime, you should consult your doctor or neurologist as to whether you can continue driving while waiting for a decision.
Following the decision, you may be allowed to continue driving as normal or there may be conditions such as needing to take an expert driving assessment, having the vehicle adapted to make it more suitable or having a time-limited license after which you will be re-assessed.
Your license may be withdrawn, but you may have the option to reapply later.
You can find out more about the legal requirements and support that is available to get you back to driving in the Headway booklet Driving after brain injury, which is available to download below.
Contact the Headway helpline on 0808 800 2244 or email@example.com if you would like to talk things through and get guidance based on your circumstances.
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