Driving and Concussion

Teen Driver Image Concussions can affect the way drivers think and act, getting in the way of making good decisions and making it too hard to detect and avoid hazards on the road. Driving with concussion symptoms can be dangerous not only for your teen driver, but also for his passengers and others on the road.

Concussions change the way the brain functions, causing temporary physical and mental impairments including:

  • Slower reaction time
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Poor physical coordination
  • Poor judgment

A concussion is a form of impairment. Driving while impaired, no matter the cause, can increase your child’s risk of a motor vehicle crash. Just like the brain needs to heal before returning to school and sports, the brain needs to heal before getting back to driving.

Tips to stay safe after a concussion

  • Discuss concerns about your teen’s driving with your child’s physicians or concussion specialists so they know that a return to driving is a goal for your teen.
  • Explain to your teen that the temporary driving restrictions are in place for safety — not for control. Listen to your teen and acknowledge her concerns.
  • Arrange for other ways for your teen to get to school and activities until your teen’s healthcare provider has determined the concussion has sufficiently healed. The physician might suggest a gradual return to driving as your teen’s concussion symptoms resolve.
  • Be aware that some concussion symptoms are especially dangerous for drivers. If your child reports that bright lights trigger symptoms, he should not be driving at night because the lights from oncoming traffic can trigger symptoms (like headaches) and get in the way of safe driving. If changes in position or rapid turns of the head generally trigger concussion symptoms, your teen might instinctively avoid these movements or trigger symptoms. Either way, your teen will not be able to scan the road effectively, making it harder to detect and avoid a hazard.
  • You may want to have your teen evaluated by a certified driving evaluator before she resumes driving.
  • Check out TeenDriverSource.org, a website developed by CHOP’s teen driving experts to help you safely navigate your teen’s first years of driving.