Driving After Orthopaedic Surgery

One of the most common questions I am asked is ‘when can I return to driving?’. It is a very important question because it has significant implications not only for your convenience, but also for your safety and that of other road users.

There are no hard and fast rules about returning to driving following an injury or surgery. At the end of the day, a judgment call must be made, but it is important to take this decision seriously as it can have legal ramifications or affect your insurance status. A number of factors will need to be considered:

Factors that Affect Your Ability to Drive


Are you still wearing a sling, splint or cast?

General advice is that you should NOT drive whilst you are still wearing any form of immobilization (sling, cast, splint, etc). These orthoses will impact your ability to safely hold and turn a steering wheel and operate secondary controls (indicators, window wipers, handbrake, etc).

Would you be able to control the vehicle in an emergency situation?

This is one of the most important questions to address but also one of the most difficult. You will need to have no significant ongoing pain and a complete functional range of motion before this is the case. You must be confident and comfortable that you would be able to handle this situation before returning to driving.

Are you still taking strong painkillers that may have a sedative effect?

This is a pretty simple one – strong painkillers can have a sedative effect and are known to affect your judgment and reaction time. If you are still taking strong painkillers (Endone, Tramadol, Palexia, etc) you should NOT be driving.

Will driving do any damage to your arm?

This is the other side of the story. It is important that we do not compromise what has been achieved with surgery and early rehabilitation efforts by returning to driving too soon. Dr Alexander will be able to advise you on when this is no longer the case – this will obviously depend on exactly what injury or procedure you have had and how your recovery is progressing.

Do you drive a commercial vehicle?

Drivers of commercial vehicles have more strict rules to adhere to. Dr Alexander will be able to inform you when you have made a complete recovery from your injury or surgery but should you wish to drive prior to this, you will need to contact the licensing authorities to arrange a practical assessment and possible conditional license.

Practical Tips for Driving After Surgery

Be Prepared:

Try not to put yourself into a situation where you may feel pressured to return to driving too soon

Start Slow:

When you feel comfortable and confident to return to driving, pretend you are sixteen again and go for a slow drive around an empty car park with a friend just to be sure!

Play it Safe:

If in doubt, don’t drive. Contact your insurer for further information regarding your policy and its limitations. Feel free to contact us any time for further guidance.

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