Many patients who resume driving after head injury may not be fit to drive

May 30, 2001

Return to driving after head injury 2001; 70: 761-766

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Many patients who return to driving after traumatic brain injury report problems which can significantly affect their ability to drive, finds a study in Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

During a two and a half year period, 563 adults with traumatic brain injury were referred to one of 10 rehabilitation units in England. Patients and their families were interviewed around 3 to 6 months after recruitment into the study about community mobility and return to driving.

Of the 563 patients, 381 were drivers before their injury and 139 had returned to driving at interview. Almost half of those driving reported behavioural problems such as anger, aggression and irritability, and 64% reported memory problems. Visual problems and problems with concentration and attention were also reported by over a quarter of drivers.

Importantly, the proportion of patients reporting these problems was very similar for both the driving and ex-driving groups, says the author. This suggests that, although most of those people who had returned to driving were physically competent to drive a vehicle, it may be argued that some were putting themselves and others at risk due to their psychological, emotional, and mental problems.

The study also found that only 16% of those driving before injury had been formally advised not to drive after injury. Given these findings, the author concludes that patients should be assessed for both mental and physical status before returning to driving after a head injury, and systems put in place to enable clear and consistent advice to be given to patients about driving.

Carol Hawley, Centre for Health Service Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Tel: +44-7836-548-152

BMJ Specialty Journals

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