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Driving Tips for Migraineurs Part 1

In my last post Can I drive with a Migraine? we talked about basic driving facts that Migraineurs need to consider when thinking about whether they should get behind the wheel of their vehicle.

I’ve seen others discuss this topic and communities get very upset at the idea that they shouldn’t be on the road driving with a Migraine at all. The thought of having this aspect of our lives controlled by someone else or, worse yet — taken away from us — angers many people.

Sometimes the best advice I can give to other patients is this: Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Migraineurs will choose themselves whether or not to drive at any point in their disease, and I hope they’ll be smart about it. For this post, I am going to take for granted that they will not choose to drive while Migraining, and focus this on the surprises that can happen as we go about our normal days – those unlucky times when you may be already on the road when an attack hits, or ways to help prevent the surprises in the first place…


    1. Consider driving with a friend. Carpooling to work or the store is always more fun than going it alone anyway, and if you feel like you shouldn’t drive, you have someone else right there to help you.
    2. Carry a cell phone with you at all times. Unless your phone has voice dialing, I don’t recommend smart phones which have no buttons that can aid you in finding the right numbers if you can’t see well. Have emergency numbers pre-programmed into the speed dial feature, so all it takes is finding and hitting 2 buttons to make the call.
    3. Have a pre-arranged plan so the person you’re calling knows what to do if you have an attack and isn’t caught off-guard. Mention when you are leaving and when you expect to return home so there are no surprises on either end.
    4. Carry one or two doses of non-narcotic medicine to abort an attack. Don’t leave it in your car where it can be affected by temperature changes that may damage it, and rotate it occasionally to be sure it is fresh. Color code the bottle or get a colored bottle from your pharmacist so you can find it easily. You can include a folded page of instructions in large lettering to help remind you or a helper how to take it if you can’t see well.
    5. Keep your vehicle stocked well in case you are marooned there for a few hours until help arrives or it becomes safe to drive again. A pillow, blankets, water, a snack, your Migraine bag are the bare necessities.
    6. Basic defensive driving classes will tell you to practice practice practice for an emergency. Practice what you’ll do if hit with an aura on the highway, so if it happens you will be less likely to panic, become afraid or uncertain. Try to get a momentary impression of the direction of the road and keep both hands on the wheel as you look ahead and brake with intention. You don’t want to lock your brakes, lose control of your vehicle or cause an accident. You want to slow down and get to the shoulder or a parking lot where you can stop and put your flashers on, lock your doors and treat your attack or wait for the aura to pass. Some states require that you remove your keys and sit in a passenger seat if you take medicine, or you could be prosecuted for driving with it in your system, even if you didn’t budge an inch. If there is a question, dial *55 to talk to your local state patrol office who will direct you what to do, or seek the help of a competent attorney for advice.

    Read more in Part 2 including my story of being marooned alone with my young daughter…

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.


  • Tamela Lowery
    8 years ago

    Great Information – I haven’t driven in almost a year due to my migraines and aura. It’s awful, but its best to be safe than sorry. And I get to spend more time with family and friends. Driving & Migraines are as lethal as falling to sleep at the wheel or at times Drinking & Driving. Thanks for the information!

  • Jamie Sohn
    8 years ago

    As a female traveling alone sometimes, and if/when a Migraine strikes, knowing that in some states, I meet the legal definition of “Driving (or Operating) While Impaired,” I know this is not something I want to risk- either for myself- reflex time- or for others on the road.

    Or my license, insurance premiums, etc.
    I always have frova with me.

    I treat my Migraines like I would anything that impaired me to drive. Alcohol? Check. Driving without contacts/ glasses= check, etc. Thus, as I wouldn’t drive w/my poor uncorrected vision, I have no business doing so with a Migraine- especially when my auras do include scotoma.

    I’d add to the list that pulling off the road totally- not just to the shoulder is a great alternative. Is there a gas station at the next exit? Perfect. A hotel? What a great parking lot in which you can crash in your car.

    Being on the shoulder can be dangerous… I mean- if it’s all you can do to get off the road- no exit for miles, and you’re in bad shape- by all means. But at the same time… highway shoulders aren’t the safest.

    For starters, you stick out like a potential carjacking sorethumb.

    Secondly, you never know when SOMEONE ELSE! is going to have their eyes flicker on a long drive, or find themselves fading fast. If it’s a wide margin— pull as FAR off as you can- also to avoid the spray that trucks can kick up w/o mudflaps. You really don;t want to wake up from being a good citizen to find that your windshield is cracked!

    Postdromey? Feel like a ditz? Would you give a presentation for work like that? If the answer’s “No.” then driving….especially in larger cities, and in unfamiliar places… Again- not the best idea. We get to the point where we feel like driving is an exention of ourselves… and it’s automatic- it’s not like it’s a collection of higher thought processes strung together, right? D’oh. It really is, though. Although the thought processes do become less about “am I in the middle of the lane? Will dad kill me if I hit the median again?” We do subconsciously think about stuff while we drive- and adding entertainment, and food to the mix, and Oy.

    Now add postdrome.

    See why pulling over might be a good idea?

    Where have YOU pulled over- besides the shoulder, sat in parking lots long enough for the meds to work, etc? I’d love to add some more good places where I’d be safe to my mental toolbox.

    Oh- and if you’re doing long haul driving- or are just on the interstate? Sometimes, you can get a darned good super 8 type motel rate if you pull in during the day and say that you need a place to nap for a few hours until your medication gets on board and that you don’t want to be on the road where you could hurt yourself/others b/c of a serious medical condition that requires you to get off the road- and it would be potentially life threatening if you didn’t- sorta like driving drunk.

    I’ve personally- as an example of the latter strategy-the motel sleep off- Gotten a room at a Comfort inn for $20 (normal price, $120/nt. My VErY VEERY former HA specialist was an hour away from me, and when I saw him and felt bad coming home, there were gobs of motels to choose from- I think I tried 5 different chains Only 1 time was I told “well. no, we cant help u on the room. but you’re welcome to sleep in our parking lot near front entrance- we’ll keep an eye on the car ( dwntown small sthrn city) Fine with me.

    I’m tired. Just thought I’d throw out some things I’ve thought about previously- and wondered if anyone else had other ideas!

  • Lola Aileen Vanslette
    8 years ago

    I am totally surprised this is even a question. When I have a migraine, I can barely hold my eyes open, so driving is a definite no-no for me. If it hits when I’m driving, I pull off the road until I can bare it again.

  • Donna Davis
    8 years ago

    Very informative, I would also add don’t forget the sunglasses!

  • Shanda Wiesjahn
    8 years ago

    Thank you for putting up an article of this kind. I’ve been caught in the middle of driving by a migraine so many times I try not to drive now.

  • Adele Schlazer Lester
    8 years ago

    This is the first time I’m seen an article on this subject. Well done.

  • Jane Moore
    8 years ago

    Great article. Found myself having to drive several times while having a migraine attack. Not only was the pain unbearable, but having to throw-up was the worse.

  • Alicia Jane
    8 years ago

    This was a helpful article.

  • Ann M Dow
    8 years ago

    I am often caught already drining when an aura hits…patience and calmness remain the keys…being prepared is essential when you live with migraines….thanks for giving me much needed encouragement in my personal walk! <3

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