Can You Drive After Whiplash?

Updated on August 28, 2023

It is never a good idea to drive if you can’t freely turn your head, however, plenty of drivers still do it. Each year in the United States approximately two-million people get whiplash, usually after a car accident. Between 12-50% of people with whiplash report having ongoing neck pain a year later. Most of those people can’t afford to wait a year before they drive again.

One study of drivers with whiplash analyzed the ability to drive with whiplash using a self-rating scale questionnaire. According to the drivers in the study:

  • 73% reported a decreased ability to drive
  • 75% had to rotate their trunk in order to see
  • 63% gripped the steering wheel differently after the whiplash
  • 54% were more nervous and anxious while they drove
  • 50% were more cautious drivers

The drivers in the study also reported decreased concentration and an increase in neck pain while they drove. It may be legal to drive with whiplash, but that doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest or the best interests of the other drivers on the road. 

Whiplash Overview

It can take hours for whiplash symptoms to appear after a car accident, and in some cases they may not become apparent until days or weeks later. This type of injury is caused when the head is forcefully jolted, causing injury to the neck. In addition to car accidents, another common cause of the condition is a violent blow to the head. 

Some of the more common signs of whiplash include:

  • Neck pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Neck swelling
  • Reduction or loss of neck movement
  • Headache

Some less-common signs of whiplash include blurred vision, ringing in the ears, vertigo, dizziness, and difficulty swallowing. Some people also experience pins and needles in their arms and hands. None of these symptoms are safe for driving.

How Whiplash Is Treated

Before you can safely drive, you’ll need to be treated for whiplash so your symptoms can resolve. Any combination of the following treatments may be prescribed by your doctor.


You may be given a series of exercises to do that can restore your neck’s range of motion. You will also be given stretching exercises that you can do each day. Some people find it beneficial to take a warm shower before they exercise to loosen up your muscles.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor may send you to a physical therapist who can further assist you with restoring your movement. In addition, they will help you to strengthen your muscles so your injury won’t get worse.


During the first couple of days after your accident, the doctor may recommend that you stay in bed to rest. You don’t want to stay in bed for too long, however, because it could make it take longer for you to heal. 

Pain Medication

Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain medication or prescribe you pain medications. They may also prescribe muscle relaxers. Many medications can cause drowsiness, which is another good argument not to drive. Lidocaine injections may also be given to manage your pain. 

What to Do Instead of Driving

If you weren’t at fault in the accident that caused your whiplash, you may be able to file a lawsuit to cover the costs of your transportation during your recovery. On top of the errands you must usually run like driving too and from work or going to the market, you may have new transportation needs due to your injuries.

After a crash, you may require weeks or months of medical treatments and appointments with chiropractors or therapists. If you can’t drive, you’ll need to pay for public transportation or an Uber or Lyft driver out of your own pocket. 

If you were not the at-fault driver, you can click here to discover why you should hire a car accident lawyer for a car accident that was not your fault. Filing a lawsuit may make the defendant liable for the cost of your transportation so you won’t have to risk driving. Talk to an attorney to find out what your options are before you get behind the wheel. 

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