Driving After A Stroke
What Is A Stroke?
A stroke is a serious, often life-threatening illness which occurs when parts of the blood supply to the brain are cut off. The sooner the individual receives treatment for the stroke, the less likely it is for permanent damage to occur. Most strokes occur as a result of a blood clot, although in some cases a stroke may occur due to haemorrhage – caused by bleeding in or around the brain. Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) is a related condition, it is frequently described as a mini stroke where the blood supply to the brain is temporarily interrupted. This may last for a few minutes, or persist for up to 24 hours, in some cases it may serve as a warning that a full stroke is imminent. Strokes affect people in different ways, some people are left with serious problems caused by the injury to their brain.
If you suffer from a stroke or TIA and drive a car or motorcycle, you must stop driving immediately and not drive for one month. If after one month after the stroke or TIA, you are experiencing any adverse symptoms or have had any type of seizure or indeed another stroke or TIA, you have a legal obligation to inform the DVLA and your insurance company. Drivers of buses, coaches or lorries must inform the DVLA immediately following a stroke or TIA. For more information on legal obligations following a stroke see: https://www.gov.uk/stroke-and-driving
If you are unsure whether you are allowed to drive or not after a stroke or a TIA, it is a good idea to discuss this with your doctor. In the case of complications following stroke or TIA, the DVLA may assess your fitness and ability to drive by using the information provided by you – they may also contact your GP (with your permission), request a further medical examination and ask you to take a driving assessment or eye test. The decision of the DVLA will allow you to do one of the following:
- Keep your licence
- Get a temporary license for 1,2 or 3 years, subject to review.
- Licence for an automatic car or a car with specialist adaptations
- Not permitted to drive for a short period
- In extreme cases, not be allowed to drive at all
If you are unhappy with the DVLA’s decision, you have the right to appeal. Failure to inform the DVLA of a listed medical condition is considered a criminal offence and can result in a fine of up to £1000 or, possible prosecution in the case of accident.
How A Stroke Can Affect Your Driving
Damage to the brain caused by a stroke can affect the body in a number of different ways, it can cause not only physical disabilities but also visual and cognitive impairment.
A stroke can cause a variety of visual disturbances, these may include double or blurred vision, loss of central vision in one or both eyes and changes to the individual’s sense of distance and space, causing problems with judgement.
Following a stroke, it is common to experience weakness or even paralysis (in extreme cases) of one or more of the limbs. Some people may also experience a loss of coordination, a change of sensation or uncontrolled spasms to the limbs.
Driving requires the use of a range of different cognitive skills at the same time which includes processing information and reacting quickly. A stroke may make it more difficult to react quickly to different situations or foresee the consequences of any given situation. Changes to the processing of information may make it difficult to concentrate and remember things – leading to possible situations of where the driver may feel confused or become disoriented.
Many people find themselves suffering from extreme fatigue following a stroke – this is sometimes termed as post-stroke fatigue. Simple tasks which ordinarily wouldn’t be tiring can leave the individual feeling exhausted, regardless of how much rest they’ve had. Driving whilst experiencing extreme fatigue can be dangerous and increase the likelihood of accidents.
Driving After A Stroke
For some, returning to the wheel after a stroke or TIA, may seem somewhat daunting and it may be worth considering taking a couple of refresher driving lessons. However, many people are keen to get back behind the wheel immediately following a stroke – although recovery times may vary considerably from individual to individual, in some cases taking up to 2 years. It is therefore very important to ensure that you are not only physically but also mentally prepared to return to driving, and that your vehicle is suitable for you to drive.
Some people may find driving a manual car more challenging following a stroke, it may be a good idea to reconsider the type of vehicle and if any controls will be needed.
Even if you do have any physical disabilities after a stroke, vehicle adaptations may allow you to continue driving – a specialist mobility centre can carry out an assessment to inform you of which adaptations are most suited to your circumstances. Fitting the right adaptions can facilitate driving considerably and help drivers to conquer any difficulties they may have had as a result of the stroke.
There are a wide range of specialist adaptions available which help thousands of people across the UK to maintain their freedom and independence. These include:
- Hand Controls
- Electronic Accelerators
- Left Foot Accelerators
- Pedal Modifications
- Steering Aids
- Secondary Control System
For more information regarding vehicle adaptations, get in touch with All Shropshire Mobility. We offer a wide range of adaptations as well as custom adaptations in addition to our off the shelf range, to help suit individual needs.