Driving with Migraines

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Laws against driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol are understandable. But what about driving under the influence of a migraine?

Megan Oltman, author of Free My Brain from Migraine Pain, presents a unique story of a woman in the U.S. who nearly has her license suspended because of her migraines. According to Oltman, the story goes like this: “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 [Motor Vehicle Commission] 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.”

As evidenced by this story, the way the law usually deals with the issue of driving with any medical condition, migraine included, is to monitor, restrict and sometimes suspend driver’s licenses. This brings up both moral and legal issues regarding the idea of fairness versus responsibility for migraine sufferers.

On one hand, migraineurs should be allowed to decide for themselves when they can or cannot drive. They know better than anyone the pain and discomfort associated with migraine, and how debilitating it can be. Most would not want to drive in such a condition anyway. Moreover, it seems as though the woman in the story is being punished for self-reporting her own migraines to avoid driving during one.

On the other hand, it is the responsibility of MVCs to protect all drivers from any potential harm on the road, and this means keeping people who might be potential risks off the road. It is the reason for road tests and vision tests, and why individuals with diseases such as epilepsy are sometimes forbidden from driving. Migraines can be crippling and often have very quick, unexpected onset. Reviewing the licenses of migraineurs may be the MVCs’ way of risk reduction.

Either way, drivers suffering from migraines should always have a back-up plan for getting around during an unexpected migraine. Oltman suggests keeping a phone list of friends and family who can transport you where you need to go if needed, as well as the number for a cab company.

For more information and analysis on the subject of driving with migraine, visit www.MyMigraineConnection.com, and for more on migraines and their symptoms, check out the NHF website at www.headaches.org.

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