Driving and travel

When can you get back behind the wheel after a heart attack? You're going to need to wait at least two weeks - depending on what type of treatment you've had.

It is important to talk to your doctor or specialist about how the type of treatment you've had and your recovery can impact how long you have to wait before you return to driving.

When you can start driving again will depend on your heart condition, the type of treatment you have had and the type of vehicle you wish to drive. You may need to have an assessment done by a specialist before you return to driving.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) guidelines state that you should not drive a car (Class 1) for at least two weeks after having a heart attack. Longer timeframes may apply depending on how quickly you are recovering after your heart attack and the type of treatment you had. Where there is a longer and shorter licence stand-down period (for example, two weeks after a heart attack and two days after an angioplasty) the longer timeframe applies.

If you ever have heart attack or angina symptoms while driving, you should immediately pull over and follow your action plan.

Driving after a heart attack and a stent

If you had a heart attack and a stent (angioplasty) at the same time, you should not drive for at least two weeks. If you have a stent put in without having had a heart attack, NZTA guidelines state you should wait at least two days before driving again.

Different rules apply for Class 2, 3, 4 or 5 licence and/or a P, V, I or O endorsement.

Driving after heart bypass surgery

If you had a heart attack and heart bypass surgery (coronary artery bypass graft surgery) at the same time, NZTA guidelines state you should not drive for at least four weeks. This additional time is to allow your sternum to start to heal before you get back behind the wheel.

Even if you have heart bypass surgery without having had a heart attack, you still need to wait four weeks before getting back behind the wheel.

Different rules apply for Class 2, 3, 4 or 5 licence and/or a P, V, I or O endorsement.

Driving for work

If you hold a vocational licence and drive passenger vehicles, for example a taxi, bus, truck, forklift or courier van, or fly an aeroplane, different rules apply. You'll need to wait four weeks before having an assessment done by a cardiologist to see if you can return to driving. You should also check with your insurance company to ensure that you are fully covered.

Travelling overseas after a heart attack

If you have planned or are planning an overseas trip, it's best to discuss these plans with your doctor.

Each airline has a different policy for air travel following a heart attack. You may be advised not to travel until your condition is stable. It's recommended that you contact your airline prior to booking your flight. If you're going overseas, you'll need a travel insurance policy that will cover you for pre-existing conditions.

If you are planning on travelling to a country that has a time difference, you will need to discuss your medication regime with your doctor or pharmacist.

 

If you’re back behind the wheel, you may also be thinking about going back to work.

Plan your return to work