When can I drive?

When can I drive?  

It is generally considered unsafe to drive with a splint in place. However there are several studies which note that many people still drive with casts and splints.

There is very limited or no advice available from the RTA website, insurance companies or the NRMA and limited research about this topic. It is unclear whether insurance companies will cover people wearing splints who are involved in accidents and it is also unclear whether patients could be potentially considered to be driving negligently if they are involved in an accident. While the general perception is that if a doctor says that a patient can drive they will be covered by an insurance company -This is unclear.

Your ability to drive safely will be determined by numerous factors relating to your car such as whether it is automatic or manual. Also many patients having surgery to the left hand have difficulty undoing a hand brake or changing gears.

A Colles cast on the right hand seems to have little impact on the ability to drive once it is painfree.(1)

Another study concluded that one can “advise our patients to drive once they feel safe, but they should be careful during the earlier stages of rehabilitation. If in any doubt, the driver should contact the RTA and take advice accordingly from their medical advisors”.(3)

My recommendations to patients are that:

“ You cannot drive after any hand injury or surgery until you can safely turn the wheel in an emergency to save yourself or someone else”.

Also“You cannot drive safely if you are still taking pain killers or have:

- An above elbow cast
- A scaphoid cast or Bennetts fracture cast
- An unstable fracture
- A cast on your left hand driving a manual car.
- A flexor tendon splint”

This list is by no means exhaustive and a decision to drive in a splint should be taken by the individual. It is usually clear for a given condition when you must not return to driving. On the other hand it is often not clear when you may return to driving after a given injury or operation because this varies greatly between individuals.

(1) Doctor, can I drive with this plaster? An evidence based response
Injury, Volume 33, Issue 1, January 2002, Pages 55-56
Stephen Blair, Omar Chaudhri, Alberto Gregori
MICHAEL A. KALAMARAS,* ANGELO RANDO* DONALD G. K. PITCHFORD* Department of Orthopaedics, Gold Coast Hospital, Queensland, Australia
(3) Driving whilst plastered: is it safe, is it legal?: A survey of advice to patients given by orthopaedic surgeons, insurance companies and the police Injury, Volume 35, Issue 9, September 2004, Pages 888-890
V. A. Nuñez, G. E. B. Giddins