Lots of patients ask us when they can drive following a hand injury. If you have a physical disability (long term), you can often get modifications made to your vehicle which will enable you to drive. Even something simple like a spinner on the steering wheel can make a difference. We can put you in touch with someone who specialises in assessment and vehicle modifications.
For a temporary disability, such as having your arm in a cast or a splint, there is only a small amount of research in this area, however you need to consider the following things. The NZTA say ”… you need to decide how safe you and other road users will be. Plaster casts may be uncomfortable and can make it difficult to control a vehicle. You must get guidance from your doctor concerning how your cast will affect your ability to operate all the vehicle controls”.
In addition to this, consider your insurance policy and if you are covered. Insurance companies differ in their policies, so it pays to check yours. In particular, if your doctor has specified you cannot drive, it is doubtful your insurance company will cover you.
A few studies have looked at uninjured people driving with a cast or splint on. The observed effects over 4 out of 5 studies showed increased time to complete the assessment, poorer response to hazards, and failing or loss of points on the on-road driving test. Casts that immobilised the elbow and thumb showed a greater impairment.¹
Another recent study looked at driving in a sling in a driving simulator. Most people could manage routine activities such as turning corners, however the people in the sling ran into problems dealing with an emergency.²
A thing to note with all of these studies is that the subjects were NOT INJURED, they were only immobilised. It seems logical to conclude that an injury or operation would cause more issues due to pain and restriction.
In summary, don’t drive if you feel you could be putting yourself or others at risk, and remember it is the emergency or hazardous situation which may be the issue. Seek advice from your doctor if you are unsure.
- Stinton et al: When can I drive? Return to driving following a wrist fracture: A critical review. Hand Therapy 2015, Vol20(3), 95-101.
- Hasan S et al: The effect of shoulder immobilisation on driving performance. J Shoulder Elbow surgery. 2015 Feb: 24(2); 273-9