Driving after a health scare

On the road again - driving after a heart attack or stroke

Having a health scare, like a stroke or heart attack, can impact your everyday life in many ways. Not least being able to drive. Once you're well enough, you'll probably be keen to get back on the road as soon as possible. We've put together some guidance so you can do that safely.

Driving after a heart attack

Driving after a heart attack

Heart or circulatory conditions may stop you from driving for a short while, but the good news is that it doesn’t always mean you’ll be off the road forever.

How long you're unable to drive can depend on your condition, the symptoms and what type of licence you have. For anyone with a grade 2 licence who drives a bus, lorry or heavy goods vehicle, it may take longer before you're approved to start driving again - because you could pose a greater risk on the roads.

The Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) recommends you should stop driving a car or motorbike for:

  • 1 week if you've had a successful angioplasty (a procedure used to widen blocked arteries). 
  • 4 weeks if you’ve had an angioplasty but are still having some complications.
  • 4 weeks if you’ve had a heart attack.

For those driving a bus, coach or lorry, you must stop driving for 6 weeks after a heart attack or heart surgery and take an assessment with your doctor before starting up again after that time has passed.

Can you drive after a stroke?

The DVLA won’t allow you to drive for at least a month after a stroke (or a similar neurological problem). After that, if the doctor agrees that you’re safe to drive you can do so without having to re-apply for a licence. You don’t have to notify the DVLA unless you still have any remaining symptoms after the month has passed.

Who decides if I should stop driving?

Your doctor will usually tell you if you have to stop driving. If you’re told to stop driving for 3 months or more, you must give your licence back to the DVLA. You can always apply for it again, though it’s up to the DVLA to decide you’re fit enough to drive.

For safety reasons the DVLA follow a strict set of guidelines about who can drive, following the advice of medical experts. So if any of your symptoms, or medications you’re taking, give you side effects which may affect your driving (e.g. drowsiness) then they can declare you unfit to drive.

What if I don’t tell the DVLA?

You can expect a fine of up to £1,000 if you don’t tell the DVLA about any medical condition that affects your driving. You may also be prosecuted for any accidents you’re involved in as a result.

Car insurance after a heart attack or stroke

Failing to be upfront about your health when renewing or getting a new insurance policy can be considered insurance fraud. Though each insurance company is different, as long as your condition is being managed properly, and you’ve got the medical notes to prove it might not be impossible to get cover. 

Tips for starting to drive after a health scare

  • Start driving again in easy stages; try smaller journeys to begin with.
  • Avoid heavy traffic and motorways until you know you can cope and can safely navigate the busy roads.
  • Take regular breaks when you have to drive for longer distances. 
  • Try to keep calm and relaxed. Road rage can cause even healthy hearts to get agitated so consider if it’s worth it to your health to risk the stress.

Published: 5 March 2019

Author: Jim Hunt

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