Driving After a Stroke

What to Think About Before Resuming Driving After a Stroke

Driving is one of the biggest concerns for most stroke survivors. Driving is a complex task that requires quick integration of sensory, motor and thinking functions. Often, rehabilitation facilities use formalized driving assessments to help determine whether stroke patients are ready to resume driving, and some rehabilitation programs help recovering stroke patients re-learn the skills necessary for safe driving.


Many stroke survivors want to drive to maintain independence or to avoid being a burden to others. Before you think about resuming driving, it is important to consider several neurological issues that can develop due to a stroke.


Visual impairment after a stoke can include vision loss, a visual field cut, blurred vision, double vision, inaccurate depth perception, or trouble recognizing objects or colors. A small visual field cut is often not a serious problem when it comes to most regular activities, but it is a major consideration when it comes to driving. Many people do not notice a visual field cut unless their doctor points it out. A visual field cut is when one side of vision or one section of vision is impaired more than other areas of vision. Normally, a person with a simple visual field cut can turn to see objects that are in the impaired field of vision. But while driving, people, cars or other objects located in the impaired field of vision may go unnoticed, which is very dangerous.

Double vision and blurred vision can cause a very confusing situation while driving. Impaired depth perception is another problem that may not be apparent with normal activities, but is dangerous when driving. Depth perception involves the ability to judge distances between objects.

Vision must be thoroughly examined for all of these aspects prior to resuming driving.


Hemiplegia, or 'half body' weakness, is very common after a stroke. Weakness may impair the ability to properly maneuver a car or turn the head to look in all directions. Even minor weakness can manifest as slow coordination or difficulty placing the right amount of force on the brakes, steering wheel, or other driving instruments.

Reaction Time

Reaction time may be slowed after a stroke. Some people notice that this gradually improves with time, but it may remain impaired long-term. Driving requires intact reaction time and strong decision making skills.


One of the infrequent complications after strokes is the development of seizures. While seizures can be well controlled with medication, it can take some time to adjust the proper anti-seizure medication dosage. A seizure is very dangerous if it occurs while driving. Optimal seizure control is essential when considering whether or not to resume driving.


Some patients notice increased sleepiness after a stroke. This may improve gradually over time.

If bouts of sleepiness occur unexpectedly or at random hours during the day, it may be dangerous to drive. If the sleepiness is well controlled by a daily schedule that incorporates a generous amount of sleep, then driving can be safe when it is carefully planned during well-rested intervals throughout the day.


New medications started after a stroke my take some adjustment and may cause slow reaction times, sleepiness or produce other uncomfortable side effects that can interfere with driving. It is best to wait to observe the developments of any medication side effects before resuming driving.

Trouble with directions

Sometimes a stroke affects the ability to  perceive and plan out directions, depending on which parts of the brain were affected by stroke. At times, this can improve with rehabilitation. But it is best to stay in familiar places if your senses of direction or orientation are impaired.

Help Getting Around

If you are not ready to drive yet, some communities provide assistance with transportation. A combination of alternative transportation methods, such as public buses, walking or private services may be useful. Despite the inconvenience associated with not driving, it is safer for a recovering stroke patient and for everyone involved if the utmost care and caution are taken about this very serious decision.

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