Migraines and Our Driver's License

by Megan Oltman


I wrote last time about how Migraines and driving, as well as some Migraine medications and driving, don't mix (Migraines & Driving Don't Mix). To generalize, in most cases so far, driving while impaired by the effects of Migraine medications has been considered DUI, and liability has been imposed; but driving while impaired by the effects of the Migraine itself has not led to liability. Given the logical underpinnings of these cases, however, and the state of the law, I would not be surprised at some point to see liability imposed if someone who knowingly drives with a Migraine (which impairs them), causes a serious accident. 

As Migraineurs, I hope that we will be responsible, and recognize that a Migraine impacts us in ways that we often don't recognize. Studies have shown that, even in subjects who thought they were unimpaired, a Migraine attack:

• slows our reflexes

• impairs cognitive function

• distracts us and

• can distort our visual and perceptual abilities

If we feel a Migraine coming on while driving, we need to pull over. When we have a Migraine, we need to ask for a ride, take public transportation, or wait until the Migraine has passed. Many of us do self-restrict; some have given up driving entirely, others are careful not to drive around or during an attack. 

How the law seeks to deal with this issue thus far is mainly through imposition of limits in the Motor Vehicle Codes, rather than through imposing criminal liability.

I first learned about this issue through a question here on MyMigraineConnection - a member wrote that she had voluntarily revealed to her state's Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) that she has Migraines, and they were considering suspending her license. How it came about was that her son, who lived at home, had his driving privileges suspended and was applying for a restricted license so he could drive himself to work. Since the mother was at home, the MVC initially said that the mother could drive him to work. The mother informed them that she could not always drive him because, if she had a Migraine, she could not drive. The MVC used this as a reason to review her driving privileges, with a suggestion that they might suspend her license.

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