What is it about?

The medical term for 'fainting' is syncope. Among people who experience an episode of syncope, about 10% will experience another episode in the following year. Syncope is characterized by loss of consciousness, so someone who experiences a recurrence of syncope while driving a motor vehicle is very likely to crash. This might hurt or kill the driver, their passengers, or other people on the road. As a result, doctors are often asked to advise patients about driving safety after syncope. Unfortunately, very few studies guide doctors' advice. We examined police data for 475 car crashes that occurred among 9,507 drivers who had previously visited an emergency department for an episode of syncope. We found that prior syncope did not appear to increase crash risk. However, our results do not apply to people who completely stopped driving after syncope. Future studies should focus on driving safety among patients at very high risk of syncope recurrence.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Syncope affects one in three people in their lifetime. Asking those people to stop driving might prevent crashes, but driving cessation can cause unemployment, social isolation, and unhappiness. Better research data is needed to find the right balance between traffic safety and the benefits of being able to drive.


I work as a physician in a hospital. Several years ago, I was asked to see a young woman who crashed her car after an episode of syncope. She wanted to know if it was safe to drive; giving up driving would mean giving up her profession. I was surprised that very few studies could guide my advice. I think we were both a bit frustrated about that. My team and I performed this set of studies to try to help patients like that young woman. Our results don't provide all the answers, but I think they are the best data out there to guide clinical practice. And they generally suggest that physicians, policymakers, and current guidelines are on the right track.

John Staples

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Syncope and subsequent traffic crash: A responsibility analysis, PLoS ONE, January 2023, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0279710.
You can read the full text:




The following have contributed to this page