Migraine May Increase Risk for Motor Vehicle Crashes, More Research Focus Required

Person with headache
Stressed Driver Sitting At Roadside After Traffic Accident looking at the damage
While migraine may have a negative impact on driving performance, few research studies have focused on the effect migraine has on the risk for motor vehicle accidents.

While migraine may negatively impact driving performance, few research studies have focused on the effect migraine has on the risk for motor vehicle accidents, according to  study results published in Headache.

The study was a review of literature that reported associations between migraine and driving performance. While migraine is a prevalent disease across the globe and motor vehicle crashes are a concern for most people, few studies on the association between these 2 variables were available for review. Studies related to the impact of pain, visual disturbances, vertigo, and sleepiness on driving were then included in the expanded literature review.

Researchers found population studies from New Zealand and Canada that suggest a correlation between having a migraine diagnosis and being at an increased risk for motor vehicle crashes. In a New Zealand study of 10,289 patients, approximately 18% of patients who had a history of treated migraine reported a motor vehicle crash compared with 10% of patients with no history of treated migraine (P <.0001). A significantly higher percentage of respondents to a longitudinal Canadian survey reported experiencing a motor vehicle crash compared with patients without migraine (12% vs 7%, respectively; P <.0001).

The review authors also suggest that symptoms of migraine, in addition to migraine pain, may also increase the burden on people who drive. Sleepiness, vertigo, and visual disturbances were all found to influence driving behavior and increase the risk for motor vehicle crashes in other studies.

Other studies from Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel have also suggested migraine has a negative impact on driving performance. The few studies that strictly chose to analyze the association between migraine and driving, however, have several inherent limitations.

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Despite the limited data available, the review authors suggest “a neurocognitive assessment that replicates results of driving simulators or on-the-road tests would facilitate broader assessment of driving ability in clinical practice.”

Disclosure: Several study authors declared affiliations with the pharmaceutical industry. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Tepper SJ, Silberstein SD, Rosen NL, et al. The influence of migraine on driving: current understanding, future directions, and potential implications of findings. Headache. 2020;60(1):178-189