Is it safe to drive after experiencing a brain injury?

AdobeStock_168584365.jpegDriving is one of the most dangerous activities regularly conducted by Americans, and often one with which motorists become overconfident. Aggression, distraction and negligence in the driver’s seat can cause serious harm. A common injury sustained by victims of a car accident is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In some cases, crash trauma sustained in a motor vehicle accident may further escalate others’ safety risks.

The Texas Department of State Health Services tracks reports of specific incidents and medical conditions, including traumatic brain injuries. A physician’s recommendation may be necessary for someone with a history of brain trauma to be medically cleared to drive again. However, can a provider be sure that driving after a TBI will not endanger others?

Head trauma may present long-term complications

The medical community continues its attempts to find effective interventions for those diagnosed with a TBI. Although the symptoms from minor brain injuries may subside with time; ultimately, there is no cure.

Research suggests that a TBI could increase the risk of further complications. One’s quality of life could be challenged or decreased by resulting conditions such as:

  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Seizures
  • Cellular death
  • Ruptured blood vessels
  • Nerve damage
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Sleep disorders
  • Brain degeneration

A TBI could also increase the chances of developing debilitating diseases such as Huntington’s or Parkinson’s.

One person’s independence may risk another’s life

Regaining independence after a serious injury is an important part of the recovery process. In some cases, that includes equipping a vehicle with adaptive equipment so someone who sustained a TBI can drive as safely as possible.

No matter the severity of the initial injury, however, there is a lack of evidence that supports taking control of a motor vehicle would be safe. Due to known dangers like decreased reaction time, vision impairment and convulsions that commonly result from brain trauma, the potential for causing catastrophic crash injuries could outweigh reinstated driving privileges.