• Leitner Varughese

Driving After a Concussion: What to Know About Accident Risks


Many people who are injured in motor vehicle collisions in New York or elsewhere in the country suffer head injuries, including concussions and other types of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Indeed, according to the Mayo Clinic, car accidents are among the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries, and even seemingly mild head trauma from a collision can have long-term consequences. Yet concussions can also lead to subsequent car crashes. Whether you sustain a concussion in a car collision or as a result of another type of accident, it may be in your own best interest, and within your duty to other drivers on the road, to avoid driving until you have recovered. According to a recent study reported in MedNews 365, driving after a concussion may increase your chances of causing a serious or fatal car accident.

Concussions Slow Your Reaction Time

Why would a concussion put a driver at risk of causing a serious car accident? In short, according to the article, concussions slow drivers’ reaction times, and they “may not be able to make decisions fast enough to keep them and others safe.” To put it another way, if a person has sustained a concussion and then gets behind the wheel of a car, that person may not be able to react quickly enough to prevent a collision. Thus, although another motorist’s behavior might have resulted in the conditions that made a car accident possible or even likely, a driver with a concussion might not be able to avoid or prevent the collision whereas another driver (who had not been concussed) might be able to react quickly enough to avoid a wreck.

Depending upon the severity and other factors, a driver may still be unable to operate a vehicle safely after a concussion even when the major symptoms of the TBI have subsided. As such, simply because original symptoms of a concussion have gone away does not mean that driving is yet safe. It is important to speak with a physician about your injury to determine when it is safe to get back on the road. Even if another driver’s negligence causes the accident that you were unable to avoid due to your concussion, that driver could argue that you are not entitled to compensation for a serious injury under New York’s contributory negligence law.

How the Car Accident Study Worked

The study involves dozens of college students, aged 20 on average. About 50% of the participants had previous sustained concussions, and they were all asked to engage in a computer-based, simulated driving test that was designed to test mental acuity. In all of the cases involving students with concussions, the researchers waited until the concussion symptoms had disappeared for the drivers to take the simulated test. Accordingly, none of the students involved in the study had concussion symptoms at the time of the driving test, although about half of them had suffered a concussion.

What did the researchers find? In short, auto accidents are statistically more likely when a driver has suffered a concussion, even if signs or symptoms of that concussion are no longer present. The findings were particularly true when a driver had suffered a severe concussion. In such cases, “while most symptoms go away in a few days,” the effects of the head trauma can persist for several weeks and, in some cases, even months after the accident.

Contact a New York Auto Accident Lawyer

If you have questions about filing an auto accident lawsuit after a serious accident, or if you have concerns about contributory negligence, a New York car accident lawyer at our firm can assist you. Contact Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC to speak with an advocate about your case.

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