To be able to drive after lower back surgery, there are three requirements assuming you have a vehicle with an automatic transmission. A vehicle with a stick shift and a clutch requires increased energy and driving may not advance as rapidly.
1. You must have clear sensorium. This means that you cannot be too tired and you must have good judgment even under the influence of pain medications and/or muscle relaxants. If you have any doubts about your ability to make judgment calls or your reaction time, you must wait to drive until you can think clearly and react appropriately.
2. You must be able to sit comfortably to drive. Many patients can sit comfortably immediately after surgery but some cannot. Driving distances may depend upon your tolerance to sit. Initially, you may only endure 15 minutes of sitting so short local trips may be the only driving you can do. As the post surgical inflammation recedes, your ability improves until long distances can be contemplated. It is not a penalty to stop and walk around the car during any length of trip.
3. The third rule is to be able to make a panic stop. If a child runs out in front of your car or you need to avoid an impact, you must to be able to hit the brakes immediately. Only when you have the ability in your back and legs to do this maneuver may you drive.
Of course, you may be transported in a car as a passenger immediately after surgery but it will help to have the seat reclined somewhat to reduce the load of vibration inherent in a car. For a long drive, get out and walk around the car every 1-2 hours.