Driving after a stroke
The damage caused by a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA) can make it difficult or unsafe to drive. In addition to weakness of limbs and incoordination, other effects such as visual problems, difficulty with concentration and processing information makes driving dangerous after a stroke.
Stroke survivors must also be aware that sometimes, they may not have insight into potential dangers. Because of these problems, people must not drive after a stroke or TIA until they have been medically assessed and given a doctor’s approval to resume driving.
The regulations at a glance
Anyone who has had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA) is not allowed to drive a car for at least one month after the event. These rules are for safety reasons, to protect the driver, other road users and pedestrians. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has strict guidelines about who may or may not drive.
There are two DVLA license groups. Group 1 includes motor cars and motor cycles. Group 2 includes large lorries (category C) and buses (category D). The medical standards for Group 2 drivers are very much higher than those for Group 1 because of the size and weight of the vehicle. This also reflects the higher risk caused by the length of time the driver may spend at the wheel in the course of his/her occupation.
Group 1 Regulations
Must not drive for at least 1 month. May resume driving after this time if the clinical recovery is satisfactory. There is no need to notify the DVLA but the insurance company should be notified.
The DVLA must be notified if one month after the stroke, there are residual symptoms causing limb weakness, visual disturbance, problems with co-ordination, memory or understanding.
Minor limb weakness alone will not require notification unless restriction to certain types of vehicle or vehicles with adapted controls is needed.
A driver experiencing multiple TIAs over a short period of time may require 3 months freedom from further attacks before resuming driving and should notify the DVLA.
If epileptic attacks of any kind have occurred, other than those within the 24 hours following the stroke event, the DVLA has to be informed.
Group 2 Regulations
Refusal/ revocation for at least 12 months following a stroke or TIA. Can be considered for licensing after this period if there is a full and complete recovery and there are no other significant risk factors. Licensing will also be subject to satisfactory medical reports including exercise ECG testing.
What happens after the DVLA is notified?
When you have informed the DVLA of a medical condition or disability, the medical advisers at DVLA will decide whether or not you can satisfy the national medical guidelines and the requirements of the law. A licence is accordingly issued, revoked or refused.
The medical questionnaire that you use to notify DVLA allows you to provide specific details about your medical condition or disability. The questionnaire also enables you to provide your consent for the DVLA medical adviser to request medical information from your doctor (s), if this is needed. If at all possible a decision will be made on the information you provide. If, however, further information is required, then the medical adviser may:
- contact your own doctor and or consultant
- arrange for you to be examined by a locally appointed medical officer or local consultant or specialist
- ask you to undergo a driving assessment, eyesight or driving test
Once the medical adviser is satisfied that all the relevant medical information is available, a decision will be taken about your driving licence in accordance with the medical standards of fitness to drive. The decisions that can be taken are:
- you may be able to retain your licence or be issued with a new driving licence
- you may be issued with a driving licence for a period of one, two or three years if the medical adviser decides that a review of your medical fitness is required in the future
- you may be issued a driving licence which indicates that special controls need to be fitted to the vehicles you drive to enable you to overcome the effects of a physical disability
- your licence may be revoked or your application refused. DVLA will only do this when their enquiries confirm that as a result of your medical condition you are unable to meet the required medical standards of fitness to drive
The following factors will be taken into consideration by the DVLA when they decide on your fitness to drive:
- Permanent damage to vision
- Problems with memory, judgement and concentration
- Slow reactions in an emergency Spasm in a paralysed limb which cannot be controlled
- Seizures or convulsions
If your driving licence is revoked or refused by the medical adviser at DVLA you will be:
- provided with a medical explanation of why this decision was taken. Wherever possible DVLA will advise you when you can re-apply for your licence
- sent notice that will explain your right of appeal to a Magistrates’ Court if you live in England or Wales, or to a Sheriff Court if you live in Scotland.
There are several accredited mobility centres around the country. They can offer information, advice and help on driving with a disability. The mobility centre can also advise on any adaptations needed. (See Stroke Association Factsheet)
More information from Directgov
As well as informing the DVLA, you must let your insurance company know about your condition. You must also inform them if you make any vehicle modifications to enable you to drive after your stroke. If you fail to inform them, you may find you are not insured. Your insurance company may want a doctor’s report to say it is safe for you to start driving again.
Some companies may refuse to continue to insure you or raise your premium. If you experience problems with your insurance, contact the British Insurance Brokers Association. They can direct you to an independent insurance broker who will be able to advise you on the most appropriate vehicle insurance policy.
Blue badge parking scheme
The Blue Badge parking scheme offers a range of parking benefits for people with disabilities that affect their mobility or who are registered blind, whether they are travelling as drivers or passengers. For more information and to find out if you are eligible, contact your local council. The Department for Transport also produces a booklet about the scheme.
Information from Directgov