Driving after a Traumatic Brain Injury

For most of us, driving equates with independence and freedom. So when you are diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and learn that you cannot drive at all, or need to limit your driving to daylight hours, you may feel the loss of independence you once enjoyed.

Even with a mild traumatic brain injury, changes in thinking, perception, vision, and motor skills can affect driving: the ability to stay in the correct lane, react quickly when another driver cuts in front of you, and seeing a green light change to red. With a TBI, individuals become easily fatigued and may have difficulty concentrating for long periods of time. They often have difficulty processing rapidly moving stimuli, such as passing cars and bicycles. http://www.biausa.org/brain-injury-community.htm

But the good news is that between thirty and sixty percent of individuals with a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury eventually return to driving. They do so with the help of driving rehabilitation professionals, who first evaluate cognitive functioning, judgment, and reasoning skills. They then conduct a road evaluation. Still, most TBI survivors are not adequately evaluated before getting behind the wheel again. http://www.biausa.org/brain-injury-community.htm

Family members can help too. If it’s your spouse, though, and you prefer to save your marriage, you may want to be evaluated by an objective party like a rehab professional. For me, though, my husband has been helpful (okay, so we’ve had a few spats). Since my TBI has presented with difficulty processing multiple stimuli and anticipating changes down the road, he has spent time with me driving – me behind the wheel and he the passenger – cueing me when to change lanes or to turn. He has also encouraged me not to engage in too much conversation while driving. Because I fatigue easily, I no longer drive long distances – either my husband drives or I take the bus. And he’s aware of what I call my “bad brain” days and initiates driving. More importantly, I’m aware of my “bad brain” days and either limit my driving, or do not drive at all.

Of course, making the change from limitless driving to limited driving has not been easy. I don’t see friends as much as I used to, and I spend more time indoors, especially during the winter. Thank goodness for social media!

How has your TBI limited your ability to drive? How have you learned to cope with the changes?


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