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Can a Concussion Impact Driving Ability?

Posted in Brain Injury, Car Accidents on August 15, 2018

A concussion can have detrimental effects that last for days, even weeks following the initial injury. Concussion victims often complain of a number of symptoms, from dizziness and mental confusion to headaches and sensitivity to light. It seems reasonable to assume that a concussion could affect your ability to drive. Learn how a concussion affects your brain, and the types of activity you should avoid while your body heals.

How Does a Concussion Affect Driving?

To appropriately understand how a concussion could affect your driving ability, it’s essential to know what a concussion is. This mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when your brain hits the tough bone of your skull. Normally, your brain floats in your skull, protected by cerebral spinal fluid. However, an outside force, or trauma, can cause your brain to sustain damage when it hits your skull.

A concussion can occur while participating in any number of activities, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies car accidents, falls, and sports-related events as the most common causes of concussions. If you have a concussion, you may complain of one or many of the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Sensitivity to light
  • A blackout
  • Emotional disturbances

In the hours, days, or weeks following a blow to the head, you may experience any of these side effects. Most often, a person diagnosed with a concussion experiences dizziness, nausea, confusion, and difficulty focusing. These symptoms typically persist for 48 hours with a mild concussion, but a more severe trauma could lead to a longer recovery time.

When Can I Drive Following a Concussion?

If doctors have diagnosed you with a concussion, don’t get behind the wheel unless it’s safe to do so. You will likely receive discharge instructions from your health care provider that detail what precautions to take and when you can safely get behind the wheel. It’s essential to follow these instructions carefully.

Driving may seem like second nature to many, but it involves complex brain activity. For example, you must be cognitively aware of your surroundings and be prepared to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a crash. You must also have good hand-eye coordination to manipulate the wheel and complete basic driving maneuvers. A traumatic brain injury like a concussion can interfere with these abilities, so it’s best to avoid driving until a doctor gives you the green light.

Finally, your doctors will likely tell you to rest your brain, so it can heal. Depending on the severity of the injury, your providers may advise against reading, being out in the sun, or even watching TV, as it causes strain to your healing mind. Partaking in an activity such as driving can pose a danger to other drivers on the road, and it could hamper your recovery.

Take Care of Yourself After a Concussion

A concussion might not seem like a major injury, but any blow to the head requires careful attention. If you don’t take care of yourself, you could make your symptoms much worse or cause longer-lasting damage. A concussion, though on a milder scale, is still a traumatic brain injury. Follow your discharge orders and rest until a doctor gives you permission to resume your normal activities. Avoid driving while you recover, as you pose a danger to yourself and others.

Because of the nature of the injury, a concussion can affect your driving ability. It’s best to avoid any mentally engaging activities, including driving, until you feel well again. If you have any further questions or concerns, speak to your health care provider.