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Driving after a stroke?

Freedom and independence are what we strive to achieve on a daily basis. Being able to operate a motor vehicle provides us with an important aspect of independence, and often times we take this for granted.

Understandably, many stroke survivors have the goal of driving again after a stroke in order to maintain part of their independence and freedom within their community. This thought can be daunting and attractive at the same time.

Since a stroke can occur in any area of the brain and can affect a variety of functions, the ability to return to driving safely depends on the presentation of symptoms. An individual may experience weakness or paralysis on the right side of the body for example, but vision and cognition may not be affected. Therefor, the stroke survivor may be appropriate to return to driving with adaptive equipment/modification.

As driving is one of the most complex tasks we do in daily life - and we usually are not even aware of it - it is important to undergo a thorough evaluation after sustaining a stroke or any brain injury.

Here are The Neuro Hub's recommendations:

  • Speak to your primary care physician or neurologist about your desire to return to driving.

  • Check with your state's department of motor vehicles and see if it requires your physician to report your health status as well as what the current laws are.

  • Contact a driver rehabilitation specialist in your area to undergo a comprehensive driver evaluation. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED, has a free, searchable database with professionals in your area.

  • No matter what the deficits may be after a stroke, it is always recommended to consult with an experienced driver rehab specialist (DRS) or certified driver rehab specialist (CDRS) to undergo a comprehensive driver evaluation.

  • If you are in the central Florida area, contact us at 407-900-1818 or to get more information on this topic.

What is a comprehensive driver evaluation?

This assessment is to determine if a stroke survivor is physically and mentally able to operate a motor vehicle. It consists of two parts:

  • The in-clinic evaluation: assess all the components required for driving; vision, cognition, range of motion, strength, coordination, reflexes and reaction time and many more. A client with some physical limitations on one side of the body could still be able to drive, possibly with adaptive equipment, as long as other components are intact.

  • The behind-the-wheel evaluation: the individual will undergo an assessment in a training vehicle and drive in various environments. The DRS/CDRS will assess if the individual can safely operate the vehicle, follow all road rules, interact with other drivers appropriately and problem solve. The behind the wheel evaluation consists of driving in various environments and demonstrating the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

The good news is, the National Highway Traffic Safety administration reports most stroke survivors can return to safe, independent driving. And while returning to independence is desirable, safety is of upmost importance.


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