Driving and transport
Having a stroke or TIAs (Transient ischemic attacks) may make it difficult or unsafe to drive, at least temporarily. People realised they were not able to drive because their vision had been affected or because weakness or numbness in the limbs affected their control of the car. Many also felt they had lost confidence. As these problems sometimes improve it was possible for some people to get back to driving.
The UK DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) do not allow you to drive for at least a month after a stroke. After the first month, if the doctor agrees that you are fit to drive, you can do so. If, after the month, the doctor or you feel that you are not fit enough to drive you have to tell the DVLA and your insurance company. However, if you are also affected by epilepsy after the stroke, you have to have been seizure free for 12 months before the DVLA will consider you for a driving licence.
Once the DVLA know about the stroke they will send you a questionnaire to fill in and ask for permission to contact your doctor for further information about your condition if necessary. The DVLA base their decision on the information you give them on the questionnaire and may ask your GP or consultant for a report on whether they think you are safe to drive. This happened to one man who felt he was lucky because he had bought a new automatic car just before the stroke; once he had his licence again he also had his car modified so that he was able to use the accelerator with his left foot.
He told the DVLA that he had had a stroke and given up driving but when he felt better he wrote...
Well, after my stroke, I recognised that I was a bit feebler and so forth and I certainly couldn't drive the car' normally and so I wrote, I wrote to the DVLA and told them I'd given up driving. I didn't cancel my motor insurance or anything because I'm an eternal optimist and I expected to be driving again within a few months but I felt that, that one ought to tell the DVLA that you've had a stroke and you're not fit to drive, which I wasn't. And I think after about 4 or 5 months I thought I was OK again, so I wrote to them and said, 'I think I'm OK now' and they wrote to my doctor to see if he thought I was OK and he apparently said OK, so I received a letter from the DVLA saying, 'You're fine, carry on, there are no special provisions' and I wrote to the insurance company, I kept them involved, telling them what I'd done and' wrote to them telling that the DVLA had cleared me with no special provisions and they wrote back and said, 'Your insurance cover has no special provisions', so everything's normal in other words. So I drive using my left foot accelerator. I had the car modified with a simple gadget which consists of a bar or an axle with a flat doodle that does that and that can be pulled back out of the way for a normal right footed driver or put forward for me as a left footed driver and I press on this lever and it presses that accelerator. Simple. And not very expensive to have fitted.
If the doctor feels unable to make an assessment of whether you are fit to drive you can have an assessment by another, independent, GP or at a local accredited mobility centre. This test can include a visual test, a test of reactions and a driving test around the centre. These centres can give advice on mobility adaptations to the car although people usually have to pay for the assessment. Others felt that although their doctor felt that they could drive after the first month, they did not have the confidence to do so and one person went for the assessment anyway.
Many of those who had their licences returned described how it had increased their confidence or feelings of independence and freedom [Interview 06] whereas those who had not been able to drive again felt that they had less independence and freedom because of it. The loss of a driving licence was particularly hard for two people who lived in rural areas with less public transport.
He told the DVLA about his stroke and went for a test at a local assessment centre.
Well, my driving license was never, you know, taken off me. I mean, I've heard people who've had strokes and had their driving, their doctor's informed the DVLA, their own doctor informed the DVLA but it didn't happen with me. I could go out and drive if I wanted to but I couldn't physically drive but there was nothing to stop me lawfully driving but anyway I said, 'Well, I am going to do it legally'. I informed the DVLA myself about it and it was actually my area rehab nurse, she came in and told me about the, going to [local city] for reassessment. So I wanted covered. I wanted to be sure if I wanted to drive again, I'm covered, if anything happens, I'll be covered. So she got me an appoint with the, the driving assessment in [local city]. I went through and that's about a 3 hour assessment. I was surprised what that was and it was all about, the first part was all about reaction, the Highway code, questions about how I feel, my mobility, things like that and then eventually she said, 'We'll take you in a car' which I was very surprised. I said, 'I've not driven for about 6 months here'. She said, 'It's automatic. We'll take you in the hospital grounds first of all and see how you go'. So round the hospital grounds we went for about 20 minutes and she said, 'Right, we'll go into town and into [local city]', she said, 'You look OK to drive' and I was. I mean, I was very, don't get me, I was very confident driving, very confident. I went out to [local city], through [local city] and I drove no problem. So we got back and she said, 'I'm going to write to them and as far as I can see, there's no problem'. I had to get an automatic car obviously. I said, 'Right, that's OK'. So I got one back in a fortnight. I got a copy of the report for from her and she sent a report to the DVLA, the DVLA sent back to me, I sent my license back to them, they gave me a new license with how will I put it? Saying, my new license would say I can only drive automatic cars, which is no problem. So I got that back, I went shopping for an automatic car and I got one through in [city]. I sold my old car, got my car, got the automatic car and it's been a lifeline again to me. It was very good.
Getting his license and driving again was a big confidence boost after the stroke and he is now...
They told, they told me initially when I left the hospital that I wasn't to drive for 3 months and I think most heart attack patients are told this, you see. So it was, once the occupational therapist started coming out, she asked about the driving and I said, 'Well, I've been told not to drive for 3 months.' 'Right', she said. And I was advised by the therapist to advise DVLA in Swansea of my condition and the fact I had been advised not to drive for 3 months in what was the' order of events, you see. So, with the stroke, my peripheral on my right side has been affected as well, you see, slightly, which means you've got to scan, scan wider than normal. So I was, I was advised to go for a visual field test, eye test, which checks the peripheral vision. So I done that, got the prescription and the print-out and sent it to Swansea. A month later, Swansea sent forms back to me which had to be filled in by, a 3 part form, one to be filled in by myself, one by the hospital and one by my work and send them away back to Swansea with the, the prescription and the print-out. So that was sent away back and a month later, they came back giving me the, the OK to drive.
So thankfully, I got the OK from Swansea and it was a big, big step getting back in the car, I can tell you. Psychologically again, confidence thing again, you know. It seems to be, just building back this psychological thing, you know, jumping the psychological barrier and getting the confidence going because the first time I sat in the car was like, it was like the first time I had ever sat in the car, you know. Where's the clutch, where's the brakes, where's the indicators, you know. And you've just got to sit, well, I had to sit anyway and take my time and go through the controls of the car without actually switching on, you know, just familiarising yourself with, as I say, indicators, brakes, clutch, you know, light switches, things like that . But again, I've been in the car a few times now and each time, it's been getting better and getting better and getting better and it's actually, again, it's this thing, you're building up confidence. I think I most, that I think, with the effect of the stroke was that I've got a lack of feeling between my right foot and the pedals. But again, it's like, it's like driving and braking on instinct. It's, not quite that but it seems as if that's how it's doing, you know, and the lack of feeling, it's not 100%, I can feel, you know, I can feel it but it's the awareness is it's less than it was, you know. So that's another thing to get used to but, again, as I said, I've been out in the car 3 or 4 times now and it's, each time it's, it's been, it's been getting better, you know. But I think again that's a confidence thing.
Feels that not being able to drive has affected her life enormously because she lives in an area...
People used different kinds of transport after their stroke. Some found themselves reliant on their husband or wife to drive whilst others relied on lifts from friends or family or on taxis. This could lead to a feeling of loss of independence. One person who had to give up driving had tried an electric bicycle and has now bought an electric mobility scooter, although he was yet to try it. Others got used to using buses and although the experience may have been hard at first they had a sense of achievement. If you are disabled by your stroke you may be eligible for a free pass to use public transport ask your local council for details. One man had been helped to use buses by rehabilitation staff and is now able to use them by himself.
Had to give up driving, tried an electric bicycle but felt unsafe. Has now got an electric...
Well, I'm encouraged to walk but this weather has been so cold and horrible I've had no inclination to do that and so I've recently invested in a little invalid scooter, electric scooter. I did in fact buy an electric powered bicycle thinking it would do me good first to give me some independence and give me some exercise which I badly needed. But when I bought it and got it home, I found I couldn't ride it because I was just unsafe. I was too, too wobbly, I thought I was going to fall off and, and my psychologist said, 'Well, it's not'' he just, he diagnosed that the problem with, that had affected the stroke had affected the various functions of the brain. I don't know what these different parts are, the planning thing and then there's another compartment and then there's the execution, instructions that the brain emits and it's that execution function that's been damaged, he diagnosed from my, giving me little tests when I first saw him. He said, 'That would explain why you couldn't ride a bicycle.' Mind you it's 50 years since I've ridden one so I did find it scary. I really hated the thought of having to go out and use it and I was quite convinced I would crash and fall off in some way. As well as the roads being bad round here and even though it's a quiet spot there is a lot of through traffic. So now, I've given up the idea of driving that so I've got a little motorised scooter, an invalid scooter which I hope will get me out. But I've only just bought it, so I've not tried it yet.
Woman with aphasia had started to use buses which was hard but she has learned how to do it.
Right. Well, buses I think up until about hmmm 9, 10 months back I started taking buses and my husband said to me, 'Now, look here's a piece of paper, there's the money and go off, go on' and I found it at the beginning horrific. I was frightened. I couldn't understand the left and the right. I couldn't see were the buses going that way or that way. I can't understand the amount of money. When I got the money and when I got in the bus, it seemed too quick to get my feet and my leg up into it and I was frightened of the whole thing was opened quickly or close, you see, and I would say to the man, 'Can I have the bus please?' but I, I was like, 'Here's my '2 and I think it's '1.30' and then he said, ' bla bla bla' you see and then he would tell me off because I hadn't given him the piece of paper [coughing] and then I realised that I wanted to sit right near by so that I can press to a, a place to help people, so I can press and say I want to get off soon, very soon. I was really scared of that because, you know, I was carrying a bus, you know. And then and then eventually I thought, right now I've got to get up and I've got to press something and say [sighs] 'I'd like to get out now' but when I came out towards the door, I was terrified. I thought my legs were coming out too quick. It was fine actually but oh, it took me weeks and weeks to do it properly. I'm much better now and of course I find, I still find it very difficult when I have difficulties about going in the right directions, the right amount of money, whether it's freezing cold, rain, an umbrella to carry oh, it's horrible. It makes me up, almost upsetting, particularly if I've gone to try and buy and buy something, I don't know, potatoes or something. Horrible. Horrible.
But have you found it an achievement to be able to use the bus?
I'm getting better and better but, oh, it has been very, very hard work. Very hard work. Mm hmm.
Being accompanied on the bus by rehabilitation staff gave him confidence to use them by himself.
And so now do you go out and go on the bus on your own?
Yeah, I do, yeah. I do it without my stick unless I go somewhere, then I will take it but I don't, I don't even use the stick now.
Last reviewed June 2017.
Last updated June 2017.