Chronic Migraines, Medication and Driving Don’t Mix

Chronic Migraines and Driving Your Vehicle

There is no such thing as a convenient time for a migraine to attack but some instances warrant added concern. The onset of a migraine while driving can create a seriously dangerous scenario for you, your passengers and other vehicles on the road. And for many, bright lights, visual straining and the anxiety that can sometimes accompany driving may qualify as a migraine trigger. But what should you do if, out of the blue, you sense a migraine attack heading your way while driving?  

The problem with this scenario is:

  • Impaired vision and moderate to severe pain while driving can become an extremely dangerous distraction that could render you unable to properly and safely operate your vehicle. 

  • If you disclose your migraine condition to the Motor Vehicle Commission, you could face license suspension or a review of your case. 

  • Often, migraine medications can impair one’s ability to drive and should not be taken as a precaution or resolution while driving. 

The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration mandates: 

If a driver is impaired they should stay off the road. And by their definition, impairment can result from any of the following:

  • Alcohol consumption

  • Drug consumption

  • Exhaustion

  • Distraction 

  • Medical condition 

No matter how you spin it, driving with a migraine can quickly put you on the wrong side of the law. Most migraine sufferers would rather not be driving once pain, nausea, sensitivity to light or sound and exhaustion sets in. But in life, you can’t always predict what’s waiting around the bend. For this reason, it is recommended that you have a plan in place to safeguard against scenarios such as this. Here are some things you can do to avoid finding yourself trapped in a car with a quickly advancing or full-blown migraine. 

Don’t Travel Alone 

Always arrange to travel with another person who can take over if your migraine symptoms begin to flare up. 

Know Your Migraine Triggers

Keep a migraine diary to track possible migraine triggers and work to avoid them, especially prior to a road trip. This diary should include your eating habits, activity and sleep patterns.

Use Public Transportation

Take the stress of travel off your plate by utilizing public transportation as much as possible. It may require a little more preparation but it’s the safest alternative to driving with migraine pain.

Factor Migraines into Your Planning

When making travel plans, give yourself enough time to pull over and rest to combat migraine symptoms if they spring up during your drive. Allowing for extra time during travel will also help to alleviate stress, which could be a migraine trigger. 

Investigate Alternative Migraine Medications

Ask your doctor about migraine medications that can be taken to help curb symptoms but won’t impair driving. 

Notify Others of Your Travel Plans

Let your family or close friends know when you will be driving alone and what route you’ll be taking. Have them on standby in the event that you are overcome by a severe migraine episode and need to pull over or abort the trip.  

Be Willing to Cancel or Delay Plans

If all else fails, you must be able to call it quits when necessary. It’s not the easiest decision to make but health and safety must always come first. If you feel a migraine coming on or have been battling an episode prior to travel plans, your best bet is to fold. 

It can be frustrating to coordinate your life around the ebbs and flows of migraine triggers but it’s imperative that you remember – the alternative is much worse. Failing to take the proper precautions could put you at risk for seriously harming yourself or someone else. Other penalties could include the suspension or revoking of your license or worse, a DUI or DWI. By planning ahead and fully understanding your migraine triggers and patterns, you’ll be able to get to where you want to go despite the unpredictability of another episode.  

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