How Long After a Concussion Can You Drive? Tips to Know

How long after a concussion can you drive? Follow expert guidelines for returning to driving safely after a brain injury to avoid potential risks.

Driving needs a lot from us. It requires a healthy body and mind. A concussion can mess up these systems, making us slower to react and less able to focus. This makes driving dangerous for everyone on the road. There’s no set time for getting back behind the wheel after a concussion.1 Your doctor will help figure out when it’s safe to drive again. They’ll check how well your brain is working and help you start driving slowly.

Key Takeaways

  • Concussions can significantly impair cognitive, physical, and emotional functions necessary for safe driving.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all timeline for when it’s safe to resume driving after a concussion.
  • Healthcare providers and driving assessments are crucial in determining readiness to return to driving.
  • Gradual reintroduction to driving, starting with short trips, is recommended for a safe recovery.
  • Concussion recovery is similar to recovering from a sprained ankle, requiring caution and medical clearance.

Understanding Concussions

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a kind of traumatic brain injury, TBI,2 often from a bump, blow, or jolt. This makes the brain quickly move back and forth or side to side. The brain can then bounce around or twist, hurting brain cells and causing chemical changes.2

Symptoms of a Concussion

If you have a concussion, you might feel confused or have a headache. You could see things differently, feel dizzy or sick to your stomach. Remembering things or focusing could be hard, and your mood might change.2

Causes of Concussions

Falls, sports, car accidents, and other sudden injuries can cause concussions. These come from direct hits or sudden stops that shake the head.2 The CDC says concussions happen most often in car accidents, falls, fights, sports, and accidental hits.2 Most cases do not involve passing out.2

Symptoms of concussions fit into physical, thinking, mood, and sleep problems.2 How quickly you get better varies. Usually, children, teens, and older folks take longer.2 But sometimes, a blood clot can form after a concussion. This is dangerous and needs quick medical help.2

Risks of Driving After a Concussion

Driving needs your body and mind to work well, which a concussion can mess up.3 If your attention, memory, or how quickly you understand things drops, spotting dangers on the road becomes hard.4 Dings to your reaction time increase how far you need to stop and lower your crash dodging ability.4 Also, bad choices are more likely after a head injury, upping the risk of accidents.4 So, driving post-concussion is super hazardous for everyone on the road.

Impaired Cognitive Functions

A bump to the head can mess with how sharp our focus, memory, and quick thinking are. This difficulty can greatly spike our crash risk.4

Slower Reaction Time

If you’ve had a concussion, waiting a little longer to react is common. But this wait can turn a safe stop into a big crash.4 Make sure you’re alright before you get behind the wheel.

Poor Judgment and Decision-Making

Bad decisions and risky actions often follow a concussion. And they up the chances of a car wreck.4 Losing key mental skills after a knock to the head can be really dangerous on the road.

Concussion Recovery Timeline

Every person’s concussion recovery is different. So, there’s no set time for how long it might take to get better.2 After getting a concussion, doctors suggest a period of rest. This helps the brain heal.2 Meanwhile, it’s best to steer clear of anything that could make your symptoms worse.

When symptoms ease up, you can start doing more. But it should be step by step, with your healthcare team’s advice.2 Slowly adding back activities like school, work, and sports makes sure you recover safely.

Initial Rest Period

Right after your concussion, you’re told not to drive for the first day or two.2 This break is crucial for your brain to kickstart its healing without any hitches.

Gradual Return to Activities

Once the rest period is over and you’re feeling better, you can start doing more. But, it has to be gradual and under the watch of your health team.2 Heading back to things step by step ensures a smooth recovery. It lets you slowly regain your brain and body strength before tackling more.

concussion recovery timeline

Driving Restrictions After a Concussion

After a concussion, the doctor checks how well someone thinks, moves, and feels before allowing them to drive again.2 Driving might be put on hold for a bit. The doctor could ask for more tests, like checking how fast they react or how well they spot dangers, before saying it’s okay to drive.2

Physician’s Evaluation

Most times, doctors say not to drive for at least 24-48 hours after a concussion.2 They will watch for any symptoms during this time. Once the person feels better without any driving-related issues, which can take 1-2 days, the doctor will give the green light for driving again. Medical OK is always needed.2

DMV Requirements

In certain places, it’s up to the person to tell the DMV about their concussion.3 The DMV might then want to see medical papers. They’ll check the person’s driving past too. Often, they need more tests or expert reviews before saying it’s safe to drive again.3

See also  What Will the ER Do for a Concussion? Overview & Steps

If after a concussion, someone finds it hard to turn their head, lights bother them, or they feel worse when driving, they should not drive.2 Instead, they could ask someone else to drive, use buses or taxis, or shop online for food.2

how long after a concussion can you drive

After a concussion, the time it takes to start driving again varies. It depends on many things. These include the concussion’s seriousness, your age, and any health problems you might have. Also, the kind of care and treatment you get makes a big difference in how fast you recover.2

Factors Affecting Recovery Time

How serious your concussion is matters a lot in when you can start driving again.2 Kids, teens, and older folks often need more time to get better. They might need extra care or treatment.2 Also, if you had health issues before the concussion, this can slow your recovery. Where and how you get treatment also plays a key role in your healing.

Monitoring Symptoms

Watching your symptoms closely is vital after a concussion.2 Most doctors say not to drive within the first day or two after getting hurt.2 If you find it hard to see in bright light or your symptoms get worse when you drive, don’t drive.2 Tell your doctor about these problems. They will help decide when it’s safe for you to drive again.

Keep an eye on how you feel and talk to your care team often. This really helps in knowing when it’s okay to drive again.3 Sharing everything about how you feel with your doctor is key. This includes what your family and friends have noticed too.3

Teen Drivers and Concussions

Teen drivers face higher risks after a concussion. Research shows they tend to underestimate dangerous situations. They also get easily distracted, leading to severe crashes.3 Car accidents are the top cause of death for American teen. Teens are also more likely to have accidents than any other group.3

Increased Risk for Teen Drivers

Teens are easily distracted, often drive too fast, and might tailgate. This can result in serious accidents.3 It’s vital for parents to closely follow their teen’s healing journey with healthcare experts. They should guide and support their recovery until it’s safe for them to drive again.3

Parental Guidance

After a concussion, teens need extra care to ensure they recover safely. Parents should team up with healthcare providers for a tailored plan. Monitoring symptoms and providing guidance are key during recovery.3 With medical help and parental support, teens can get back on the road safely.

Driving Simulations and Assessments

Healthcare providers and driving specialists use various simulations to check if someone can drive after a concussion. They test the driver’s reaction time to see if they can respond fast enough on the road4. Plus, they see how well the driver spots dangers with hazard tests.4 These tests look into the person’s thinking, movement, and seeing skills, crucial for driving safely.5 The test results help experts decide if and when it’s safe for the person to get back behind the wheel.

Reaction Time Testing

Testing reaction time is key when assessing someone’s driving fitness post-concussion. It’s been found that people who had a concussion react almost a second slower than those who haven’t.4 This delayed response can mean needing a lot more distance to stop, which risks accidents.4

Hazard Perception Tests

These tests focus on how well someone can spot and handle dangers on the road. Studies show that those with a concussion can find this harder, showing strange driving and drifting out of lanes.5 These issues affect a driver’s safety and smart choices, both very important in today’s driving demands.

Using these methods, healthcare experts get a full view of a person’s ability to drive post-injury. This detailed approach aids in making wise decisions, aiming for a secure driving situation for the individual, their company, and others out on the road.

Concussion and Driving Under the Influence

Research shows that a concussion can make you drive like you’re drunk.4 You might have trouble controlling your car, swerve a lot, and react slowly – just like a drunk driver.4 This is why driving with a concussion is risky and could even lead to legal trouble for “impaired driving.”2 Some places have rules that if you’ve had a concussion, you must tell the DMV. If not, you could face fines for driving before being fully checked by a doctor.2

Similarities in Impairment

Studies find that the brain and body issues from a concussion are like those from being drunk.4 People with concussions might drive erratically, even if they feel okay.4 They might react slowly and need more time to stop, which makes accidents more likely.4

Legal Implications

The similarities between a concussion’s effects and being drunk have big legal effects.2 In some places, driving with a concussion is seen as driving impaired. This means you could get into as much trouble as a drunk driver does.2 If you have a concussion, you might have to tell the DMV. Then, they could stop you from driving for a while until you’re okay.2

See also  Return to Normal Activity After Concussion: Guidelines

So, it’s crucial to follow what your doctor says and not rush back to driving if you’ve had a concussion. Getting checked by experts, slowly getting back to driving, and knowing the rules where you live can lessen the dangers of driving after a brain injury.

Return to Driving Guidelines

Returning to driving after a concussion needs a careful approach.3 It starts with short trips that increase over time. This helps as symptoms become better.

Driving to nearby places like work is a good start. It’s better than long commutes or new roads.6 Practicing in empty lots before going on roads is also wise. This slow way back makes driving again safe and smooth.

Gradual Reintroduction to Driving

After a concussion, it’s best not to drive for 24 – 48 hours.2 As symptoms ease, the okay to slowly start driving again comes from the healthcare provider. This step by step method ensures driving is safe as both body and mind recover.

Short Trips vs. Long Commutes

Starting back driving should be with short, known routes.6 This helps gain confidence without straining the healing brain. Over time, longer and harder drives can happen. Always follow the advice of your healthcare team as you progress.

Precautions and Safety Measures

After a concussion, it’s vital to drive back safely. Avoid things like bright lights and sudden head turns.2 It’s best not to drive for the first 24-48 hours afterward. If you struggle with bright lights or turning your head, keep away from getting behind the wheel.2

Avoiding Triggers

Steer clear of what makes your symptoms worse. This means watching out for bright lights, sudden moves, and too much time behind the wheel. These can spike symptoms like feeling dizzy, headaches, or struggling to focus.2 If driving is too tough, consider other ways to get around. Things like taking the bus, using rideshares, or having things delivered can be a big help.2

Seeking Professional Evaluations

Talking to experts is a key step. Neurologists, occupational therapists, and driving specialists can pinpoint your limits and give you a plan to drive again.6 They test your brain, body, and how you see things for driving safely.6 Special tools like BrainScope and RightEye check vision problems. The Sway Balance System and Brain SPECT Scan test your balance and brain function. This helps decide if you’re ready to drive again.6

Concussion and Driving Laws

Laws about driving after a concussion change a lot from state to state.2 In some places, if you’ve had a concussion, you must let the DMV know. You might need to show them your medical records and take more tests before you can drive again.3 For instance, in Virginia, you have to tell the DMV about any health issue that could make driving unsafe.3

State-Specific Regulations

When the DMV knows about your situation, they look at your driving history and medical info.3 They might ask you to take more tests before saying it’s okay for you to drive.3 If driving could be dangerous, they might stop you from driving for a while.3

Self-Reporting Requirements

In Kentucky, it’s illegal to drive if you’re still feeling the effects of a concussion. The usual advice is to not drive for the first 24 to 48 hours after getting hurt.2 Doctors might clear you to start driving again between 24 to 48 hours, depending on how you’re feeling.2 Knowing and following your state’s rules is very important to stay out of legal trouble and keep the roads safe for everyone.

Brain Injury Rehabilitation

Getting better from a concussion or brain injury needs many types of help.7 There is cognitive therapy and physical therapy.7 Cognitive therapy works on your attention, memory, and problem-solving.7 Physical therapy helps with your balance and ability to move.7 A team of experts, including doctors and therapists, creates a plan just for you. This plan helps you overcome struggles and get ready to drive safely again.

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy is great for those with brain injuries.7 It helps with driving-relevant skills like memory and focus.7 After all, a brain injury can make it hard to remember things or solve problems.7 The good news is the brain can heal itself in certain ways. This healing, called neuroplasticity, can bring back skills lost due to injury.7

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is key for recovery after a brain injury.7 It involves using special tools and therapy to beat physical barriers to driving.7 For example, it helps people who have trouble moving or controlling their body.7 Many with brain injuries also have sight problems.7 Physical therapy can fix some of these sight issues. This type of therapy is meant to get you back to being able to drive again.7

See also  Concussion Symptoms: Signs to Watch Out For After a Head Injury
Driving Restrictions After Brain InjuryTimeline
Mild head injury/concussionWait at least 24-48 hours before driving again7
Moderate to severe brain injuryWait 6-12 months before attempting to drive78
Seizure risk after brain injuryApproximately 5-10% of TBI patients may experience a seizure7
Fatigue after brain injuryAround 5-10% of TBI patients will face fatigue7


Driving after a concussion is really risky. This is because your thinking, movement, and feelings might be off after a head injury. These changes make you more likely to get into a car crash.9 Studies show that people with concussions may drive as badly as someone who has been drinking.9 It’s dangerous to drive if you’re feeling common symptoms like headaches, dizzy spells, or confusion. These can all make it hard to drive safely.9

After getting a concussion, there’s no set time to know when it’s OK to drive again. This is because everyone’s healing time is different.9 Even when symptoms seem gone, it might not be safe to drive. Studies say you might still have trouble controlling the car. You could swerve more, for example.9 So, folks with concussions might have to wait more than 48 hours after they feel better before hitting the road.9

Getting back to driving safely needs listening to your healthcare team and doing the right tests.9 They will help you know when it’s time to start driving again. This careful approach, along with the support and steps taken, is crucial. It ensures you can safely drive again after an injury.9 Remember, it’s all about putting safety first and getting expert help to get back behind the wheel.


How long after a concussion can you drive?

No set time frame exists for driving again after a concussion. Everyone’s recovery is different. It’s vital to follow your doctor’s advice. Make sure you have all necessary assessments before getting back behind the wheel. This will ensure your safety on the road.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a mild form of brain injury. It happens from a hit to the head or body. The brain moves suddenly inside the skull. This can lead to chemical changes and harm brain cells.

What are the symptoms of a concussion?

Symptoms include feeling confused, seeing changes in vision, or being dizzy. Others involve trouble remembering things or feeling easily upset.

What are the risks of driving after a concussion?

A concussion can affect how you think, react, and make decisions. This might make driving dangerous. It’s not just risky for you, but also for anyone else in your car or on the road.

What is the concussion recovery timeline?

After a concussion, the brain needs time to heal. Rest is important at first. Then, slowly start your daily activities again as your symptoms improve, following your doctor’s advice.

What are the driving restrictions after a concussion?

Doctors will check if you can drive safely again. You might have to stop driving for a while. They may also have you do more tests before saying it’s okay to drive.

What factors affect the recovery time from a concussion?

Your age, health, and the kind of concussion all matter. So does how quickly you get good care. This affects how soon you’ll be better.

How do teen drivers handle driving after a concussion?

Teens may find it harder to drive safely after a concussion. They may take bigger risks and be easily distracted. These factors could lead to serious accidents.

What assessments are used to evaluate driving ability after a concussion?

Experts might test your reaction time or how well you spot hazards. These tests help check if you’re ready to drive again.

How is driving after a concussion similar to driving under the influence?

Studies show a concussion’s effects can be like being drunk or on drugs. This is worrying for the safety of everyone on the road.

What guidelines should be followed for returning to driving after a concussion?

It’s advised to start driving again slowly, with short trips. As you feel better, you can take on longer rides and more challenging drives. Always keep listening to what your healthcare provider says.

What precautions and safety measures should be taken when driving after a concussion?

Be careful to avoid things that make your symptoms worse. Plus, talk to your doctor to know your specific limits. Follow their advice closely for a safe recovery to driving.

What laws and regulations surround driving after a concussion?

The rules can differ depending on where you live. Some places ask you to inform the DMV about your concussion. You might need a doctor’s note or more tests before you can drive again.

How can brain injury rehabilitation help with driving after a concussion?

Therapy can improve your thinking and physical abilities. This helps you drive more safely. Cognitive therapy works on attention and memory. Physical therapy helps with balance and coordination.

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