Driving after a stroke

A stroke is bad news, but as well as medical concerns, many people find a stroke raises another important question: can I carry on driving?

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For some people inability to drive following a stroke may just mean a temporary loss of independence, but for others, such as professional drivers, it can have a serious financial impact. 

Here we answer questions about driving after a stroke, a transient ischaemic attack (TIA, or ‘mini-stroke), or a heart attack and whether you have to tell the DVLA and your motor insurance provider. 

Can you drive after a stroke?

Everyone who has a stroke must stop driving for a least one month afterwards, regardless of the type of stroke or kind of licence they hold. After that, whether you can drive again, and when, depends on the opinion of your doctor. Many people can return to driving, but for some it may be impossible. 

Why can’t I drive immediately after a stroke?

Even if you feel fine there are many reasons why a stroke or TIA may affect your ability to drive, making you a danger to yourself and others. A stroke can have temporary or permanent effects such as:

    Determinants of driving after a stroke

    Whether and when you can drive after a stroke or TIA depends on 

      Some people may not want to start driving again, but if you do, there are standard procedures in place in the UK before you can do so. 

        Ensure you know which type of stroke you have had and what kind of licence you hold because the rules vary according to the kind of licence.

        Do I need to inform the DVLA after a stroke?

        Sometimes not, but under other circumstances it is essential. It's your responsibility to tell the DVLA about any medical issue that impacts your ability to drive safely, including a stroke. Your doctor is not responsible for this. You can report your stroke to the DVLA online.

        Failing to tell the DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving carries a fine of up to £1,000, and if you have an accident you could be prosecuted.

        Driving after a TIA, an ischaemic stroke or lacunar stroke

        After a single TIA or ischaemic stroke (including a lacunar stroke), many drivers can resume driving after a month, but your return depends on your medical condition and type of licence. 

          If after that month, a doctor judges that you have any remaining cognitive or visual issues you will may have to wait longer, but you may be able to restart driving if your remaining problems are limited to limb weakness.

          If you have a series of TIAs over a short period, you cannot drive until you have been free of them for three months. 

          If you are in the group that does not have to notify the DVLA for a month, you must notify the DVLA after that month if you have any ongoing effects. If your doctor says you cannot drive for more than three months you will need to surrender your licence to the DVLA.

            Driving after a haemorrhagic stroke

            These come in two types: 

            a) Subarachnoid haemorrhage

              b) Intracranial haemorrhage due to infratentorial arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)

                The DVLA and strokes: checklist

                You must notify the DVLA as soon as possible if:

                  Do I have to inform my insurance company after a TIA or stroke?

                  Yes. Even if your doctor has said you can start driving again, you still need to tell your insurance company about a stroke or a TIA. Failing to do so may mean you are not covered in full for future claims.

                  Tell your insurance company as soon as possible. If after a month you are confirmed as being safe to drive again by your doctor, your insurer may ask for medical confirmation that you are safe to return to driving and may ask you to tell the DVLA/DVA about your stroke or TIA. 

                  Driving after a stroke – insurance

                  Your ability to buy motor insurance should not be affected by a stroke or TIA, even if your stroke has left you with a disability that means you start driving an adapted vehicle.

                  How will having a stroke or TIA affect my motor insurance premiums?

                  Your premiums may be unaffected unless you need an adapted vehicle. Consult your insurer. It’s illegal to charge extra for motor insurance because of a disability unless the insurer can prove it’s justified, as stated in the Equality Act 2010, and there is no evidence to suggest that disabled drivers pay higher insurance premiums, according to the charity Disabled Motoring UK.

                  Consider rebroking your cover, particularly if you are expecting to reduce your mileage after your stroke or TIA. You may find that telematics (black box) cover or pay per mile cover suits you better, at least in the short term. 

                  What if I am declared medically unfit to drive?

                  It is essential that you inform your insurer and the DVLA, otherwise you are committing a criminal offence.

                  After this the DVLA will decide that you can either: 

                    Fitness to drive assessments and return to driving courses

                    In some cases you may be offered an assessment at a local mobility centre. About 50% of people who have strokes can consider returning to driving according to the charity Driving Mobility, which offers courses at 20 locations across the UK. 

                    If referred through the NHS, a GP, other health professional, the DVLA, DVA, or Motability, assessments are free to clients at most centres. You can self-refer, in which case you pay – ask about costs. 

                    For more information about driving after a stroke or TIA, see The Stroke Association 

                    Downloadable guide: Driving After a Stroke.

                    Driving after a heart attack – insurance and DVLA 

                    Many of the rules about driving after heart attacks are similar to those about strokes. If you have had a heart attack, you don’t need to inform the DVLA, but it recommends stopping driving for four weeks. 

                    As with strokes, when you can get back behind the wheel is a decision for your doctor. If you are not fit to drive for three months or more, you must surrender your licence. You can reapply for it once medical advice changes. 

                    Inform your car insurance company of any changes to your medical condition and this will be taken into account before your policy is renewed or a new policy is issued. 

                    You may be able to reduce your premiums by changing your car. As always it can pay to  shop around for cover.

                    Car insurance is just one of the costs of keeping your car on the road along with tax, petrol and servicing, so cut your insurance costs by comparing the best deals for you.