A stroke is one of the most serious medical events a person can experience, and affects more than 800,000 people in the United States every year. There are many long-term consequences of a stroke that can affect a person’s cognitive and mental abilities.This includes their ability to safely operate a car, truck or motorcycle.
According to the results of a new study, many persons who have survived a stroke begin driving again as quickly as one month after the stroke, without undergoing a driving evaluation or test. Those findings are very alarming, because a stroke can impact a person’s abilities to drive safely, even if there are no outward physical signs of the trauma that the body has been through.
For instance, a stroke very often impairs a person’s reflexes and coordination. That could affect the way a motorist reacts to an emergency situation while driving. A stroke can also result in slowness, memory problems, and judgment difficulties. All of these can prove catastrophic behind the wheel and on the road, where a person is required to constantly make judgments about speed and distance.
In the study, the researchers analyzed more than 162 persons who had suffered a stroke, and found that approximately 59% of them went back to driving within one month of the stroke. Fewer than 6% of stroke survivors took a driving test before they began operating a motor vehicle again.In fact, according to the researchers, doctors found that many stroke survivors were anxious to begin driving again, perhaps because of the sense of independence it provides.
Researchers strongly recommend that every person who suffers a stroke undergo a formal assessment of their driving abilities, conducted by a trained driving examiner in order to avoid risks to themselves or others. Family members should also do their best to intervene and insist on a formal driving evaluation or test before the person begins driving again.
We want to see stroke victims recover and move on to their normal activities, but we also want them and all drivers and passengers to be safe on our roadways.