Driving tests

Are you allowed to drive after blackouts or fainting?

A blackout, syncope or fainting is where your body experiences a sudden, temporary loss of oxygen to the brain causing a brief loss of consciousness. It can be caused by low blood pressure, hypotension, diabetes, dehydration and a multitude of other causes. It could indicate a serious illness, but equally, it could be caused by temporary circumstances such as standing in the hot sun.

If you experience blackouts or fainting they should be treated as a medical emergency until you know the cause.

Losing consciousness behind the wheel could have serious implications, especially if you’re driving a truck which has so much more kinetic energy.

NZTA says that if you know the cause of your blackout or fainting then you should not drive until it has been treated properly to reduce the risk of future blackouts. This applies across all licence classes.

However, if the cause of the blackout or fainting is unknown, you should not drive for 12 months, but this might be reduced to six months by NZTA subject to a supporting neurologist’s report.

If you have had a blackout-related crash you must have not had a blackout for five years, whether on medication or not, before you are considered fit to drive again. Heavy vehicle drivers (classes 2-5) may not be reissued a licences – it’s at NZTA’s discretion.

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Posted in Advice
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