Driving after a brain injury

Read our guide to learning to drive after a brain injury including the practicalities and possible problems.

If your child is interested in learning to drive you can read this section with them.


  • Getting behind the wheel of a car can feel like a rite of passage for many young people.
  • Learning to drive can be one of the most important and exciting times in a teenager’s life. It is another step towards adulthood.
  • Getting a driving licence can give young people more independence and freedom in being able to go places and meet up with friends.

If you have a brain injury as a result of a car accident, naturally, you might have no interest in driving. And this is fine. After all, there’s always the option of public transport, getting a lift with friends or getting in some exercise by walking to your destination.

But having a brain injury doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to drive in the future. So it’s helpful to know what the law requires, what can help you in learning to drive and when driving might not be possible after a brain injury.

Possible problems of driving after a brain injury

The thought of not being ‘allowed’ to drive because of your brain injury might be devastating to you. But driving after a brain injury can be dangerous if your condition affects you in certain ways. So it’s important to make the most sensible decision on whether you are ready to drive.

Here are some things that might affect your ability to drive if you have suffered a brain injury:

  • Concentration problems: Your brain injury might mean you become distracted easily or get confused.
  • Slower reaction time: For instance, you might not brake in time.
  • Memory problems: You may forget where you are going or how to get there. This could lead to panic.
  • Problems with movement: This could possibly make some manoeuvres difficult for you.
  • Fatigue/tiredness: This in turn could slow down your reaction times.
  • Loss of hearing or visual impairment: You might not hear a horn or spot an oncoming danger.

However, it’s important to understand that, depending on how your condition affects you, you may still be able to learn to drive or get back behind the wheel.

Learning to drive after a brain injury

You might have suffered your brain injury before you learnt to drive and have now reached the age where you can learn.

If you have decided that you would like to learn to drive, hopefully you will receive the support of your parents and family. They might be a little nervous about you doing so, which is understandable. But by telling them about the process and getting their help they will feel more involved and will more likely want to help you achieve this.

There will be a lot of form filling, which might take some time, so if you do have the offer of help from family or friends to fill these in, you should take it.

The following information has been taken from the Headway booklet ‘Driving after brain injury’.

This will be helpful to read through if you decide to apply for your provisional licence.

You can find lots of other information on life after brain injury on Headway’s website.

Abbreviations explained

DLA: Disability Living Allowance

DVLA: Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency

DVA: Driver and Vehicle Agency

DVSA: Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency

Applying for a driving licence

  • Most people can apply for their provisional licence at the age of 17. But if you receive the higher rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), or the enhanced rate Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), you will be able to apply for a provisional licence at 16.
  • In England, Scotland and Wales apply to the DVLA for a provisional driving licence. Fill in form D1, giving details of your disability or medical condition. You can order this form on the GOV.UK website by searching order DVLA forms.
  • In Northern Ireland you need to complete a DL1 application form available from MOT centres or main Post Office branches.
  • A DVLA or DVA medical advisor will look at and consider your application and the information you have provided on your brain injury. They may then decide to issue a provisional licence, ask for further information, contact your doctor and/or consultant or ask you to attend a medical examination.
  • If you live in the Channel Islands or Isle of Man, you will need to contact the relevant authority for information.
  • The process of medical checking and handling takes time after you have sent off your form, so if you are keen to start driving as soon as you are legally able to, it is wise to apply for your provisional driving licence two or three months before your birthday.
  • You will take the same driving test as everyone else, regardless of your impairment or condition.
  • When you book your test, let the DVSA in England, Scotland and Wales, or the DVA in Northern Ireland, know about any physical disabilities you have. You may be allowed extra time for the test, in order to explain to your examiner any adaptations you use and to allow you extra time to get in and out of the car.
  • If you are aged between 16 and 29 and get the higher rate Mobility Component of DLA, or the enhanced rate Mobility Component of PIP, the Motability Scheme may be able to assist with the cost of driving lessons. Visit motability.co.uk for more information.
  • Once you have passed your driving test, you may be entitled to receive a car through the Motability Scheme.

Theory test

When you book your theory test, let the DVSA know about your brain injury and any difficulties you have because of this. They can offer you help in the form of:

  • recorded information instead of written
  • extra time
  • sign language

Contact the DVSA to discuss any other difficulties you have before you book your theory test so that you can get as much support as possible.

I didn’t find the process of getting my driving licence too difficult. I had an initial driving assessment but other than that I took the ‘normal’ way of passing my test; having lessons, theory and practical test.

"I was able to get my car on the Motability Scheme, a scheme where a car can be had in exchange for some benefits you are entitled to. My car has been adapted; as I can’t use my left arm and hand, I have a steering aid with the indicators and other controls on it. It’s also an automatic." A teenager's view