Can you drive after a brain injury?

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries in BC. They can range from mild  to severe, and can result in a wide range of cognitive, motor, and sensory impairments, depending on factors such as the age and health of the accident victim and the precise location and severity of the brain injury. For example, a traumatic brain injury may cause impairments to memory, attention, and processing speed, and in some cases can result in paralysis, visual field deficits, or impaired hearing. Each of those functions is important to the ability to safely operate a vehicle.

Driving after a brain injury in BC

Many who sustain a brain injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident go on to a full recovery and are able to resume driving without issue. In other cases – particularly those involving moderate or severe traumatic brain injury — the impairments are greater and longer-lasting. Studies indicate that 50 per cent of those who experience a traumatic brain injury will not resume driving after the injury. Road test results indicate that roughly 30 per cent of people who have experienced a traumatic brain injury will fail a subsequent road test.

Duty to report 

Section 230 of BC’s Motor Vehicle Act requires certain medical professionals such as optometrists, nurses and doctors to report to RoadSafetyBC any patient who has a medical condition that makes it dangerous for them to drive and who continues to drive after being warned. Traumatic brain injury is one such condition. If the medical professional is of the opinion that the injury produces impairments that put the public or the injured person at risk when they drive, the medical professional must submit a Report of a Condition Affecting Fitness and Ability to Drive to RoadSafetyBC describing condition and functional impairment impacting driving.

What happens after brain injury is reported

After a brain injury has been reported, RoadSafetyBC will make a determination, with outcomes that may include:

  • Cancellation of the individual’s driver’s licence.
  • If further information regarding the medical condition is required, RoadSafetyBC may request further medical assessment by way of a Driver’s Medical Examination Report, additional information from the treating physician, or an assessment from a specialist (e.g., vision testing).
  • If the treating physician indicates possible impairment of one or more of the functions necessary for driving, RoadSafetyBC may request an assessment of ability (e.g., an ICBC on-road assessment or Functional Driving Evaluation).

Getting the help you need to resume driving 

Drivers who have experienced a persistent impairment of motor, cognitive, or sensory function as a result of a traumatic brain injury may be able to compensate and thus resume driving (perhaps with restrictions on their licence so that they only drive with permitted vehicle modifications and devices required to compensate for their functional impairment). For example, the driver may be restricted to the operation of an automatic transmission vehicle. An occupational therapist, driver rehabilitation specialist, or other medical professional can recommend specific compensatory vehicle modifications or restrictions based on an individual functional assessment. An experienced personal injury lawyer acts as an advocate, securing the best treatment and compensation necessary to expedite recovery. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident, contact Simpson Thomas & Associates. If the accident has resulted in mobility issues, we will come to you. To learn more, request a free consultation or call (604) 239-2943.

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