Even if you’ve had a fairly serious head injury it doesn’t mean that you will never drive again. It does usually mean that you will have to stop driving for at least 6 months while you recover and you will need to have the support of your doctor to help you through this period.
Even if your private car or motorbike licence isn’t suspended, it’s likely that if you are a professional driver that you will have to surrender that licence temporarily.
Do you need to surrender your licence?
If your doctor tells you to stop driving or you don’t meet the required standards for driving you will have to surrender your licence. If you voluntarily surrendered your licence you can drive while your licence is being renewed if you meet all the following conditions:
- you have the support of your doctor to continue driving
- you had a valid licence
- you only drive under the conditions of the previous licence
- your application is less than a year old
- your last licence wasn’t revoked or refused for medical reasons
- you’re not currently disqualified
- you weren’t disqualified as a high risk offender.
If your licence was revoked or refused for medical reasons then follow these steps.
Forms to fill out if you have an injury that affects your driving
You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell DVLA about your head injury if it affects your driving. If you are involved in an accident as a result of the injury then you may also be prosecuted. Your insurance is likely to be invalidated if you drive with a head injury.
Form B1 – car or motorbike licence
Form B1V – bus, coach or lorry licence
What decisions might the authority make about your driving?
- Type of transmission – you may be restricted to driving vehicles with an automatic transmission
- Special controls – you may have to have special controls fitted to your vehicle if there is some kind of associated physical disability (even if temporary)
- Assessments (see below) – you may have to undergo tests to determine your fitness to drive
- Licence withdrawal or suspension – you may have to hand your licence in for a period of time, e.g. 6 or 12 months (the authority will set a date)
- Licence time conditions – you may be given a licence for a time period, e.g. 1 year, after which you need to be retested to prove your driving fitness
- No action – you may be allowed to keep your current licence with no restrictions.
Can you regain your driving skills after a head injury?
It’s possible to regain or relearn some skills. The skills you require for driving are:
- Good coordination – must be able to control the vehicle
- Quick reactions and decision-making – must be able to respond to developing situations such as the requirement to brake or swerve to avoid a collision
- Ability to judge and anticipate situations involving multiple moving objects – must be able to see when a situation is potentially dangerous and take the right course of action
- Good spatial awareness – must be able to manoeuvre and steer the vehicle without hitting other objects
- Good concentration – must be able to maintain focus on the road
- Good memory – must be able to remember where you are going
- Good front and peripheral vision. – must be able to meet the eyesight requirements for driving
- No dizziness, balance issues or fatigue
These shouldn’t be compromised by any medication that you have to take.
Tests that may need to be carried out to assess fitness to drive
You may have to take eye tests or driving tests to prove you are still fit to drive.
Vision problems are common after a brain injury, including double vision (diplopia) and fine, jerky movements of the eye (nystagmus).
Contact Driving Mobility for information about mobility options to get you back on the road.
What precautions should you take when driving again?
Alcohol – you should never drink and drive after a head injury as it’s likely that alcohol will have a greater affect on your driving abilities than before your injury
Shorter journeys – head injury patients often get tired more quickly. Drive for shorter distances and ensure you are rested.
Medication – your doctor will tell you if any medication you are taking will affect your driving abilities
Route planning – to minimise your cognitive load, plan your route before you set off. Use a GPS navigation system and know where you are going to stop for rest breaks.
Supervision – it’s advisable to drive with an adult passenger that also has a licence in case you need to stop and let them take over.
Flexibility – alter your plans if you don’t feel well.
Backups – make sure you have breakdown cover, have a mobile phone with you, take food and water; your journey may take you longer than you anticipate and you don’t want to get hungry or thirsty as these also distract you.
Insurance – check your insurance company knows about your situation and any modifications you’ve made to your vehicle.
Financial assistance with mobility
There are charities and organisation which can help you such as the Motability Scheme, Turn2Us, Lions Club, Rotary and many local organisations such as church groups.