Think Twice About Driving After a Concussion

April 13, 2017 / Vehicle Accidents

Are you a weekend warrior who plays sports intensely? Perhaps instead you have had a loved one who has suffered a mild concussion while they were engaged in high school or college sports. Although concussions may not seem like a big deal to some, one aspect of such a brain injury, even a seemingly-minor one, is that your ability to drive may be impaired. After a couple of days’ rest you still may not be fit to return to the road. A recent study from the University of Georgia confirms that suffering a concussion can affect your driving abilities for a period of time after symptoms disappear.

Concussions and the Ability to Drive

A concussion is actually a mild TBI—traumatic brain injury—caused by a blow or jolt to the head. Sometimes a concussion means a brief loss of consciousness.

After a concussion, your brain’s functioning is temporarily impaired in the following ways, all of which affect your ability to drive:

  • Difficulties paying attention
  • Lack of physical coordination
  • Reduction in reaction time
  • Poor judgment.

The impairment can be as significant as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Therefore, you should not get behind the wheel after a concussion. But for how long?

The University of Georgia Study

Published in early 2017 by the Journal of Neurotrauma, the University of Georgia study tested 14 college-age persons who had suffered a concussion but who had stopped feeling the effects within 48 hours of when the tests were run. The study is significant because it is the first time that anyone has examined how the ability to drive is affected by a concussion. Usually concussion studies focus on athletes, and the tests don’t touch on driving—only whether the athlete is able to function well enough to return to the playing field.

The biggest conclusion from the study was that your post-concussion driving ability can be affected even after symptoms are gone. The lead author of the study and an associate professor in UGA’s College of Education, Julianne Schmidt, said that the study’s participants operated the driving simulator erratically, similar at times to someone driving under the influence, even though the test subjects claimed to feel fully recovered from their concussion. “They had less vehicle control while they were doing the driving simulation, and they swerved more within the lane. This is a pretty large indicator of motor vehicle accident risk, and this is at a time point when they are considered recovered,” stated Schmidt.

The study clearly showed that a concussion’s effects last longer than the symptoms, sometimes much longer than expected. In Schmidt’s opinion, a concussed person’s driving should be restricted at the very least until all symptoms are gone, and likely beyond that point. Her next study intends to establish precisely when driving capabilities improve after a concussion.

Recovering From a Concussion

Whether you are a teenager or a full-fledged adult, the CDC has some suggestions to help you get better as soon as possible after a concussion injury:

  • Get as much rest and sleep as you can.
  • Avoid physically-demanding (weightlifting or heavy housework) and mentally-demanding (balancing your bank account) activities.
  • Avoid all activities such as contact sports that might cause another concussion. High-speed amusement park rides and roller coasters should also be avoided.
  • Do not return to normal activities until your doctor says that it is all right. When you do return, do so gradually.
  • Consult your doctor or health care professional about when it will be safe to return to work, drive a car, ride a bike, or operate heavy machinery.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs until your doctor gives you the okay. These substances can slow your recovery.

Recovering from a brain injury can take longer than you might anticipate, so be sure to follow the instructions from your health care professional. Be extra careful about letting your brain fully heal before you get behind the wheel.

When something goes wrong, we are left to wonder.

If you have been in any kind of accident in which you sustained a concussion or brain injury, even a mild one, it is critical that you seek help should you believe another party is at fault for your injury. If you think you have a case, keep in mind that in Indiana there is a statute of limitations – or a deadline – for filing personal injury claims, so it is unwise to delay. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you deserve compensation. Don’t lose the opportunity to obtain the money you need to put your life back on track and to make your family’s future financially secure.

With over 30 years’ experience handling personal injury claims in Indiana, Stephenson Rife will put their resources to work for you. You may be eligible for compensation to assist you with medical bills and other financial obligations. If you would like to explore your options, contact Mike Stephenson at 1-317-825-5200, or use our online form. The initial consultation is always free.


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