What are the risks of driving after a fainting spell?

Date posted: 
Thursday, September 5, 2019

Data access has been approved for Phase II of a research project which aims to reduce the incidence of adverse drug events in Canada.

Data access has been approved for a study which aims to provide patients, clinicians, and policymakers with evidence to guide driving recommendations and licensing policy following syncope, commonly known as ‘fainting’.

Syncope is responsible for 1% of all North American emergency department visits with tens of thousands of these patients experiencing a repeat episode within a year. A car crash is likely to result if syncope recurs while the patient is driving, potentially resulting in harm to the patient and other road users.

“International guidelines recommend that patients at higher risk of syncope recurrence stop driving for one or more weeks, yet these recommendations are based on small, uncontrolled studies whose results are not applicable to most patients,” says project lead, Dr. John Staples, Clinical Assistant Professor, at the University of British Columbia. “No studies provide reliable estimates of the absolute or relative crash risk after an emergency department visit for syncope”.

This project brings together a core team that includes clinician-scientists with traffic safety expertise, an epidemiologist and a biostatistician. Together, they will build on previous experience in road safety research and data linkage.

Funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI), this study aims to generate robust evidence on the risks associated with driving after syncope. The knowledge gained from this study will help patients, doctors and regulators to develop driving recommendations that protect all road users without unduly limiting syncope patients’ independence, and thus have the potential to prevent motor vehicle crashes. A partnership with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) will ensure the results inform more effective policy and practice.

For the project, PopData will link six data sets from the BC Ministry of Health and the BC Vital Statistics Agency with data sets from Vancouver Coastal Health and ICBC.


Page last revised: September 5, 2019