Can I drive post-stroke?
No, not immediately. You’re required to wait until you’ve improved to a certain degree.
Because you’ve had a serious neurological event occur, which has damaged your brain. That makes you a danger to yourself and others if you get behind the wheel before you’re ready. There are also state laws prohibiting your driving for the reasons above. Just as a person can be arrested for “driving under the influence” (DUI), you could be cited by the police, placed in jail, or injure yourself and/or others. Bottom line, you’re “impaired” and dangerous at this point.
What state laws?
Every state has laws prohibiting stroke survivors, and they’re all different. For instance, Arizona is a “self-reporting” state. Thus, it’s your responsibility to report your neurological event to the State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your home. Conversely, the state of Massachusetts requires the neurologist to report the event to the DMV.
Anyone incurring a neurological event is subject to these laws.
Unfortunately, these laws aren’t well advertised, so it’s up to the patient’s doctor or therapist to alert the survivor and/or the caregiver of the respective state law.
How will I know when I’m ready to drive again?
Hopefully, your neurologist advised you not to drive again until you were ready. That means your doctor evaluated your condition as you progressed along in your recovery, and you discussed the idea with your neuro-therapists, who would be very familiar with your abilities. Once you received the “all clear,” you would be released to pursue the road to returning to driving, which also has certain regulations.
What regulations? These are the requirements in Arizona.
Attendance at a Driving School, approved by your state DMV, and also passing an intense written and driving test is required after your neurological event. The driving school I attended was a 4-6 week program.
There are two schools I’m aware of in the Phoenix area. Most people choose the one nearest their home. Find a few in the area below.
Driving for Independence
1414 West Broadway Road, Suite 218
Tempe, Arizona 85282
They also have a location in Tucson. This is the company I used to become recertified, and they did a very good job.
4120 N 20th, Ste A
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Your therapists and/or your doctor may have other recommendations, but these are the two that were recommended by my therapists.
Of course, if you live in another state or country, you’ll need to check with professionals in your area.
Once cleared by the driving school, you’re required to meet with a DMV agent, be tested in whatever skills that particular state requires (vision, driving, parking, etc.) The DMV will add a note onto your license due to your event.
Retrofitting Your Car
Until your car is retrofitted to accommodate your disability, you cannot drive. My car was retrofitted as follows: a spinner knob was added to my steering wheel to assist me when turning a corner. Since I have left-side hemiparesis (A weakness of one entire side of the body; hemi- means “half”).
Dignified Motors is the only company I know of in the Phoenix area that can retrofit your car/truck for driving again. They do a great job!
Their address: 3422 E Roeser Rd Ste 2, Phoenix, AZ 85040 | [480-315-0103]
Here are some reviews of their work on Yelp, click here.
Annual Visits to the DMV
You’ll be required to visit the DMV annually until your doctor feels you’re 100% safe. You’ll be notified by the DMV about this option. Once your doctor signs off, you're removed from this requirement.
My Experience with Driving
I don’t know about you, but I felt like a prisoner not being able to drive, close to claustrophobic! Plus, I had to depend on others to drive me everywhere! Ugh! I felt like such a burden on everyone!
If you haven’t returned to driving yet, do you feel that way?
But don’t worry, you’ll eventually get there, and you’ll be as ecstatic as I was, if not more! You need to be thinking of the first place you like to go ON YOUR OWN!
I decided to drive to Starbucks - only one mile from our house! Why? First, because I love their coffee and customer service, and because it seemed like it was ONE HUNDRED MILES away from our house while I was unable to drive!
WOW! Was that a fun trip that was! I felt SO INDEPENDENT - SO FREE!!! YIPPEE!
Allow me to share some advice with you for the first months back to driving.
You might want to take the surface roads vs the freeways, if you can. It sure helped me to adjust, as I quickly realized my reactions and eye movements were much slower than pre-stroke.
Initially, I drove to therapy more often than anywhere else, which was about 20 miles away from our house. Although it was quicker to take the freeways to my daily therapy sessions, I simply left my house earlier and took the surface streets to therapy, which worked so much better for me! Eventually, I began taking the freeways, one day at a time. Truly, it was quite an adjustment! It felt like people were driving 150 MPH! Cars were whizzing by me, it seemed! So it took me months to become comfortable with those crazy freeways!
As we’ve all needed to learn during this experience, PATIENCE is one of our lessons! Patience became pretty easy, considering how fast everyone else seemed to be going!
Here I am, 13 months post-stroke, returning to driving after following all the requirements listed above!
Below you can find me in an interview at the fabulous Dr. Berry's office after I got back to driving! :)
Do you have any questions or comments about getting back to driving?
Let me know in a comment below!
Have a wonderful rest of your day everybody.