Driving with Brain Injury

Stories about Driving after Brain Injury

The following are stories of real life survivors of brain injury.  Clicking on the titles will take you to their actual story.

Doug Transitioning to the Real World

But, and also they take me grocery shopping ’cause I can’t drive.

Where Fred’s Recovery is at Ten Months Post

Fred is unable to drive because the of problems with his sight.

Fred – Headaches, Neurological and Visual Problems

Fred is optimistic that he will soon get his drivers license back within six months, about 18 months after his wreck. He states; “If my eyes check out, and then if my brain checks out, then that’s in August to where, in August if my, because I go back and do the brain exam in August, and then by August the eye, the eye, I can’t remember the, the eye doctor will tell me if my eyes are good enough to drive, to what.” Driving is an ongoing risk factor for anyone with a TBI, especially if that person has attentional or processing speed impairments. Notwithstanding, we continue to take the position that driving with appropriate accommodations is important for continuing recovery. Without a drivers license, it is so difficult to get the community integration and continuing intellectual stimulation to continue to lay down new neuronal pathways. What makes Fred’s return to driving a challenge is the premorbid maturity and judgment questions that lead to his first accident.

Gina- Seizures and Driving

Near the same time that Gina returned to work, she started driving again.When asked about driving Gina states; “I never lost my license. It was more a I think my – there was three or four people that suggested that more for liability, that if I got in a car accident that it was proven that I had, that I has passed a test, that some professional felt I was safe to drive. It was more the liability end of it. My husband actually let me drive just in a parking lot, I want to say four weeks. I never had my license taken. I, I guess he thought I was okay just little trips. Gina’s doctor provided her with a test to see if she could drive again. Gina states; “I don’t remember the exact date. Like I said, I didn’t want to go. This was another fight I had with my mother. At the time, I know my doctor had me go through, like take a driving test and make sure that I could pass.” The driving issue got more complicated because she was diagnosed as having a seizure disorder. Her husband explains: “We went through a couple episodes where she had seizures so they wanted to pull her driver’s license. And then we found out that the type of seizures she is having doesn’t constitute her to lose her driving privileges.”

Helena – Living a Slower Life Post Brain Injury

Helena states; “What else I’m doing now. I took a certification to learn how to drive again, okay, but I, I don’t expect ever to have a car again. I ride on the bus, I do everything that keeps my life slower, and I think that I am very lucky in terms of I don’t have to take care of four children; I, so living life as a single woman is in many ways less complicated.”

Ian – Ongoing Physical and Neurological Problems

Ian also has problems with his vision. He has a driver’s license but it took him almost two years to get it back. He says that he does not limit his driving: “Whenever I need to go someplace, I go. So there’s no real set limitations.”

Kelly – Real World Means Restrictions After TBI

You’ve had your graduation. Now you get to go out in the real world: “But there’s one problem with going out in the real world. You normally have to have transportation to do that, and I didn’t have transportation. Nobody would let me drive. The doctors, the neurologists had told my mother that I would not be able to drive for quite a while and not, to not let me. I still had a balance issues that I was not to do anything that could, further impair or cause a further injury. My balance,
my mobility, things of that nature.”

Kelly – Relearning to Drive After Severe Brain Injury

So how do you ultimately solve the mobility problem?: “You have to get your driver’s license back or beg someone to come and get you. I was forever, Please come get me, take me somewhere. Please, please, let’s just go do something.- You find out who your friends are after these types of injuries.” you got your driver’s license back?: “Yes.” How did you get your driver’s license?: “I had to beg my mother to help me get my driver’s license back. And everyone said that she (meaning Kelly) couldn’t, that you had to go through all the training process. Well, I still had my driver’s license, but it just wasn’t any good legally. So we followed all the routines about how to go about getting your license. It’s going to be very expensive to get it back. All the additional training and things of that nature. So we talked to the outpatient people at Vanderbilt Stallworth about how to go about training for the driver’s license. We tried that route, it was too expensive. They said well then check with the department of vocational rehabilitation and we did that and they said well you need to go to the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center and they’ve got a driver’s training program. It’s seven months long rehabilitation program for all the different therapies for brain injury.  And they’ll put you through the whole routine of getting your driver’s license back.

Kelly – Tennessee Voc Rehab Helped TBI Recovery

At some point, before we go off the driver’s license issue, what was it that they did in this program that helped you be able to drive again?: “They had an occupational therapist. I was like a student driver and I had a special therapist drive with me and I pointed out road signs, what they meant and I would give her in advance of what was going to happen and what I was planning on doing. She would give me the destination where we’re going to and then I would have to tell her how I was going to get there.” Did you start out right in behind the wheel or was there like a simulator.: “No, right behind the wheel.” Were you having any problems at the beginning with those things that you did have to relearn?: “No sir.” Do you think you could’ve just gotten behind the wheel and driven without the training?: “Yes.” Did you think you did anything better as a result of having had the training?: “Not really.”

Kelly – Cognitive Challenges of Driving After TBI

Some of these are obvious. Driving requires attention, vision, awareness and alertness. But even the less obvious ones can create serious risk factors. Memory problems can involve getting lost, which has a secondary result of increasing distraction. Irritability, anger, disinhibition and mistakes in judgment all can have bad consequences behind the wheel. A delay in making decisions can also wind up badly. Yet, in today’s world, driving may be the key element to regaining legitimate independence after a brain injury. I explored these issues with Kelly. found this an apt analogy, but I would take it further. We know how much trouble 16 year olds can get into with a car. Thus, to responsibly allow them to drive, it is important to set up limits. While I am a strong advocate for returning TBI survivors to driving, I believe it must be done with an eye towards limiting the situations where the synergistic combination of brain injury symptoms, doesn’t make a catastrophic mistake likely.

 TJ – Adjusting to Perpetual Restrictions After TBI

What do you think are your most significant problems from your brain injury?: “Problems not being able to drive and get my license back, that’s a big problem.” So what are the problems you have in terms of getting your license now?: “A lot, a lot of stuff. A lot of little stuff, but a lot of stuff. Well, they issued a summons for me to go to court. I was in a coma so I couldn’t go to court. Because I didn’t go they issued a warrant for failure to appear. That’s the only thing getting in the way of it.”