Migraine headaches are associated with motor vehicle crashes and driving habits among older drivers: Prospective cohort study

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2024 Mar;72(3):791-801. doi: 10.1111/jgs.18719. Epub 2023 Dec 22.


Background: Migraine headache is common in older adults, often causing symptoms that may affect driving safety. This study examined associations of migraine with motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) and driving habits in older drivers and assessed modification of associations by medication use.

Methods: In a multi-site, prospective cohort study of active drivers aged 65-79 (53% female), we assessed prevalent migraine (i.e., ever had migraine, reported at enrollment), incident migraine (diagnosis first reported at a follow-up visit), and medications typically used for migraine prophylaxis and treatment. During 2-year follow-up, we recorded self-reported MVCs and measured driving habits using in-vehicle GPS devices. Associations of prevalent migraine with driving outcomes were estimated in multivariable mixed models. Using a matched design, associations of incident migraine with MVCs in the subsequent year were estimated with conditional logistic regression. Interactions between migraine and medications were tested in all models.

Results: Of 2589 drivers, 324 (12.5%) reported prevalent migraine and 34 (1.3%) incident migraine. Interactions between migraine and medications were not statistically significant in any models. Prevalent migraine was not associated with MVCs in the subsequent 2 years (adjusted OR [aOR] = 0.98; 95% CI: 0.72, 1.35), whereas incident migraine significantly increased the odds of having an MVC within 1 year (aOR = 3.27; 1.21, 8.82). Prevalent migraine was associated with small reductions in driving days and trips per month and increases in hard braking events in adjusted models.

Conclusion: Our results suggest substantially increased likelihood of MVCs in the year after newly diagnosed migraine, indicating a potential need for driving safety interventions in these patients. We found little evidence for MVC risk or substantial changes in driving habits associated with prevalent migraine. Future research should examine timing, frequency, and severity of migraine diagnosis and symptoms, and use of medications specifically prescribed for migraine, in relation to driving outcomes.

Keywords: driving habits; driving safety; migraine; migraine medications; motor vehicle crashes.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control
  • Aged
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Prospective Studies