Heart attack

Returning to driving after a heart attack

People who drive a car or motorcycle do not have to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) after a heart attack. However, the DVLA strongly recommends that they stop driving for at least four weeks after a heart attack and only restart driving when their doctor tells them that they are safe to do so. A few found this difficult if they lived in rural or semi-rural areas.

Most people we talked to felt confident enough to start driving again after this time. A few commented that their partners were more concerned about it than they were. One woman who lived on her own, said she found it daunting at first driving on her own at night and the first time she did it, she had a panic attack.

People who drive large goods vehicles (LGV) or a passenger-carrying vehicles (PCV), do have to inform the DVLA about their heart attack and fill in a VOCH1 questionnaire (see Gov.UK for more details). Tthey will be temporarily suspended, for a minimum of six weeks, until they have adequately recovered they cannot drive again unless their GP agrees that they are fit to do so. Their license will be reissued after passing a basic health and fitness test (an exercise test on a bicycle or treadmill) at a local hospital or GP practice, as long as they do not have any other condition or complication that would disqualify them from driving. One man described how he prepared for the various exercise tests he needed to pass in order to get his HGV licence agreed.

“Whatever type of licence you hold you should always let your car insurance company know about your heart condition and any changes in your medical condition, including any treatment that you’ve had. If you don’t, your car insurance may not be valid.” British Heart Foundation 2015.

Some said they now preferred not to drive long distances. One man, who had been used to driving long distances up until his heart attack, no longer did, and if he needed to, made sure he had an overnight stay. For driving after coronary artery bypass surgery (see 'Recovering from coronary artery bypass surgery').

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Last reviewed June 2017.

Last updated June 2017.

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