Travelling and driving

Travelling

You can travel straightaway by train, tram or bus, or as a passenger in a car after a heart attack.

If you find public transport stressful, try to arrange alternatives for the first few weeks, and avoid peak-hour traffic. Make sure that you have a seat so that you don’t get too tired.

Long trips may make you feel tired, or you may get car sick more easily than usual. Try to have regular breaks. If you have had bypass surgery, placing a cushion, pillow or rolled-up towel between your chest and the seat belt may help to reduce pressure on the wound while it heals.

Flying

Check with your doctor if you can travel by plane. You may also need to get a medical clearance form. Ask the airline about any air travel requirements if you’re unsure. 

Travel insurance

Your heart condition may affect travel insurance for local and overseas trips. Talk with your doctor before buying travel insurance. 

The insurance company may ask you to answer a health questionnaire and may require a medical assessment with a doctor. They will tell you if there are extra costs to cover your condition or exclusions on your cover.

Driving

A heart attack and heart surgery can affect your ability to drive short-term. You should also check if there needs to be changes to your licence.

Talk with your doctor about when you can drive again. You will need their approval. If you’ve had heart surgery, it may take longer and you may need to follow specific instructions. This may be within two to four weeks, but it depends on your recovery.

The following are suggested times to wait before you begin driving a private car again:

  • coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery – at least four weeks
  • heart attack (myocardial infarction) – at least two weeks
  • coronary angioplasty and stent insertion – at least two days

If you feel anxious about driving, or your family is worried about it, ease back slowly. Don’t drive alone, and take routes you know. Avoid peak hour traffic and long drives.

Vehicle insurance

You may need to inform your insurer about your heart condition to be covered. And they might not cover you if you start driving sooner than the recommended waiting time. Check with your insurance company.

Your licence

By law you must report a health condition that could affect your driving, including a heart attack. You need to report it after it happens, and not just when you next renew your licence. To check what you need to do, contact the licensing agency in your state or territory.

A heart attack doesn’t mean you will be stopped from driving. But the licensing agency may set some conditions or restrictions to make sure you can drive safely. For example, your licence might require that:

  • you obey minimum non-driving advisory periods
  • there is a satisfactory response to treatment
  • there are minimal symptoms that affect driving (chest pain, palpitations, breathlessness)
  • you see your doctor for a periodic review
  • there is minimal pain in your muscles and bones after bypass surgery.

Your doctor can make recommendations about a conditional licence, but the transport agency will make the final decision. It’s your responsibility to comply with any conditions on your licence.

There are also different licensing conditions you need to meet. Contact your state or territory office for more information.

Driving commercial vehicles

If you drive a commercial vehicle (e.g. a truck or forklift), there are longer waiting times before you drive again. The suggested times are:

  • coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery – at least three months
  • heart attack (myocardial infarction) – at least four weeks
  • coronary angioplasty and stent insertion – at least four weeks

There are also different licensing conditions you need to meet. 

Contact your state or territory office for more information.

Medicines and driving

Some medicines can affect your ability to drive. Ask your doctor about any side effects of your medicines. This is very important if you drive a commercial vehicle. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about how your medications may effect your ability to drive. 

Learn more about heart medicines and taking medicines and side effects.

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