Driving after brain injury after brain injury

Although we may take it for granted, driving is a very complex activity requiring a number of cognitive and physical skills, as well as the ability to co-ordinate these. Any of these skills may be impaired after a brain injury.

Fortunately, many people who have sustained a brain injury retain most of their previous driving abilities, and are able to return to driving soon afterwards. However, there are legal requirements which must be adhered to. It is sensible to take precautions, such as having a driving assessment, even if you feel that your driving skills remain intact. It should be remembered that a car is a potentially lethal weapon: many people with a brain injury were themselves injured in a road traffic collision.

It can be relatively straightforward to make adaptations to a vehicle in order to compensate for physical disabilities. However, the less obvious effects of brain injury – on thinking, memory, judgement, decision making and emotions – can be more difficult to overcome.

Ultimately, the decision on whether someone is safe to drive lies with the licensing authorities. Our booklet Driving after brain injury (PDF) provides detailed guidance on the practical considerations, legal requirements and support to return to driving. 

Legal requirements

If you have had a brain injury that could affect your fitness to drive, you must inform the Drivers Medical Unit of the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority), and your insurance company. If you are unsure, your doctor will have access to the rules and will be able to advise you.

It is the driver's responsibility to inform the DVLA. Failure to do so is a criminal offence and could invalidate your insurance.

Practical help

As your driving ability can change after a brain injury, you may need support to get back on the road.

If you are receiving the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance or the enhanced rate moving around component of Personal Independence Payment, you may be able to get a car through Motability. They also have a list of accredited suppliers who can make adaptations to your car if you find it hard to operate because of a physical disability.

You might need to get an assessment before getting back on the road, to see if you are fit to drive and/or to get advice on adaptations you might need. For more information, contact the Forum of Mobility Centres.