If you have a teen – especially one who plays sports – you’ve probably dealt with a concussion or two. Those are frightening when they happen to a child at any age. However, once your teen is old enough to drive, you need to worry about how soon it’s safe for them to do so again.
If they’re relatively new to driving, they’re still learning how to take in everything going on around them and to react quickly if another driver makes an unexpected move. Concussions can affect cognitive, vision and neurological functions – all of which are essential for driving.
A study found that almost half of teens were driving within 2 weeks
One study published last December in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that many teens get behind the wheel too soon after suffering a concussion. Researchers looked at data on over 300 drivers between 16 and 19 who had suffered concussions.
When asked how soon they’d returned to activities like school, physical activity and driving, almost half (47%) of them reported that they had started driving again within two weeks after their injury. Some three-fifths of those teens said they hadn’t changed anything about their driving. The rest noted that they were driving less, for shorter distances and/or only during daylight hours.
The teens who had modified their driving behavior tended to have more symptoms associated with their concussions than those who didn’t modify it. However, it was noted that 75% of the teens who made no changes to their driving had been given restrictions by their doctors associated with returning to school and told to get cognitive rest.
There’s less guidance on driving than resuming other activities
While doctors are likely to give teens and their parents’ guidance about when it’s safe to return to school, exercise and engage in other activities again, driving isn’t an activity where there’s evidence-based guidance – even though it can pose a much greater danger than playing sports if it’s undertaken too soon.
If your teen has suffered a concussion, it’s crucial that they don’t get behind the wheel until they have sufficiently healed. It’s challenging enough to drive defensively when you’re not dealing with the sensory, cognitive and other deficits a concussion can cause. That can put them at even more risk of injury by another driver. If your teen is injured in a crash, make sure you get the compensation you need and deserve.