Damage to the brain can occur following a stroke, which may impair driving. However, depending on stroke severity and various other factors, people may be able to resume driving after recovery.

A stroke involves a blockage or bleeding in the brain’s blood vessels, which can interrupt normal blood flow. When a stroke occurs, it reduces the amount of oxygen going to the brain. As such, strokes can cause a wide variety of effects depending on what part of the brain is involved.

The damage to the brain from a stroke can cause vision, cognitive, and physical issues. In some cases, damage from the stroke may affect skills, senses, or physical abilities that may interfere with driving. However, if a person responds to treatment and recovers well, they may be able to continue driving.

This article looks at if and when a person can drive after a stroke and whether the type of stroke someone has plays a role in driving ability.

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A person’s ability to drive after a stroke depends on the effects they may continue to experience. When someone has a stroke, symptoms may include:

Some symptoms may resolve quickly, others may linger, and some could be permanent. After the initial symptoms, damage to the brain may cause long-term effects that may interfere with a person’s ability to drive.

But in general, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, many people safely return to driving after a stroke.

Learn what a stroke feels like.

There is no specific timeframe for when a person can drive after a stroke. The severity of the damage to the brain and how fast someone recovers varies widely.

Various studies indicate different timeframes for driving after a stroke. For example, a 2018 cohort study in Korea found that out of 620 people in the study, 66.1% returned to driving after their first stroke. The participants resumed driving at a mean of 2.15 months after their stroke.

Before returning to driving, the American Stroke Association recommends that people talk with the treating doctor about whether it is safe for them to drive. It is also important for individuals to check with their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Regulations on driving after a stroke may vary by state. For instance, some states may have a policy on reporting health status and specific requirements post-stroke to drive.

Learn about the stages of stroke recovery.

If someone drives for a living, the damage from a stroke may prevent them from immediately returning to their job. If this occurs, options include financial assistance through their state’s disability program. Someone may also receive vocational rehabilitation through their state office to develop new job skills.

Also, people who drive for a living may want to contact a driving rehabilitation specialist in their area. An individual’s doctor or hospital may help them locate a specialist. The American Occupational Therapy Association is also a resource to find a driving rehabilitation specialist.

Driving rehabilitation specialists evaluate a person’s driving ability and may test functional ability, reaction time, and cognitive ability to help someone determine if driving remains safe.

Learn about exercises for stroke recovery.

Several stroke symptoms may interfere with a person’s ability to drive. Some symptoms may resolve over time or with rehabilitation services, such as physical and occupational therapy.

Typically, stroke symptoms that can affect driving may include:

These symptoms may make it difficult to turn the wheel or react quickly. Someone may become confused in traffic or have difficulty seeing road signs.

Learn about some long-term effects of a stroke.

There are several types of strokes. Some examples include:

Ischemic stroke

An ischemic stroke involves the development of a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the brain. When the brain does not get enough oxygen, cells start to die, and brain damage can develop. Ischemic strokes account for about 87% of strokes.

The severity of an ischemic stroke and how it affects driving may vary depending on:

  • the part of the brain affected
  • the severity of brain damage
  • how fast an individual received treatment

Learn the differences between an ischemic and a hemorrhagic stroke.

Hemorrhagic stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke involves a blood vessel rupture. This can occur due to an aneurysm (weak spot in the vessel). Similar to an ischemic stroke, the ability to return to driving varies depending on the severity of symptoms.

Learn the differences between a stroke and an aneurysm.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

A TIA, also called a ministroke, involves decreased blood flow to the brain for a brief time. Normal blood flow returns quickly, and symptoms tend to resolve. Since a TIA does not cause permanent damage, most people can continue to drive without issues.

However, a TIA can often signal that a person may experience a stroke in the future. As such, it is advisable to contact a doctor, even if symptoms go away.

Learn how to avoid a stroke after a TIA.

A stroke causes decreased blood and oxygen to the brain. As such, a stroke may result in various symptoms, including visual, cognitive, and physical changes.

Some of these changes may interfere with a person’s ability to drive. When and if a person can return to driving depends on the severity of their symptoms, the part of the brain involved, and how well they respond to treatment. In general, many people can resume driving at some point in their recovery.