Can I drive with a Migraine?

The saying at our farm is this: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” It certainly applies when we start to talk about the privilege of driving for those of us who suffer Migraine and Migraine with aura.

While doctors will often tell patients that driving is fine so long as they can see, hear and react appropriately and are not in the midst of an attack, I think it’s a good idea if we take a look at some tips and facts that may help you make the important decision — to drive, or not to drive.


  1. Driving is a privilege we often take for granted. With that privilege comes specific responsibilities. Driving on public roads is not a guaranteed right for anyone.
  2. Driving while under the influence of medication is an enforceable offense. Before getting behind the wheel, ask yourself if you are willing to live with a permanent mark on your driving record/criminal history. You may even risk losing your license, not to mention your life or the lives of your passengers or others on the road.
  3. Driving while Migraining with or without the influence of Migraine medicines often renders the patient unable to react appropriately. It clouds their normally competent judgment. Some police officers I’ve talked to estimate that driving while Migraining or under the treatment of medications is equal to or even worse than driving drunk.
  4. Migraine aura is unpredictable. It may also include numbness and weakness as well as visual and auditory hallucinations. Even if you think your strength, reflexes and judgment is good, you may be basing these actions on things that are not actually there.
  5. The sensitivities that accompany Migraine may make us unsafe on the road. For example, extremely bright lights can have us blinking to the point of distraction.
  6. Your state’s Motor Vehicles Commission has the right to call your license into question if they feel your health condition makes you a danger on the road. Obviously not everyone who suffers Migraine will be an unsafe driver, however they can choose to order re-testing and evaluation, or even take away your license if they suspect you are not being safe.

I come at this from several different places… I am a Migraineur, but I also worked as an emergency dispatcher and currently volunteer as an emergency first responder. I’ve seen what can happen from the perspective of the patient, from law enforcement, and from the position of the person that shows up at the scene of an accident. I am passionate about my ability to drive my little silver Mustang “Spike” intelligently and carefully (so far no tickets!) and about the safety of the roads. I also grew up the daughter of a state patrolman and the friend of more than one person killed by someone driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This means I have another vantage point as well — driving safety was drilled into my brain from a very early age, and I know the loss experienced when someone is careless or makes an avoidable mistake.

Read more driving tips from Ellen!
Tips to help keep Migraineurs road-safe: Part 1 and Part 2

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


View Comments (32)