After an amputation, most people are concerned about how their freedom of mobility will be affected. The good news is that most amputees can easily pick up driving again with some modifications.
Depending on your amputation level, you may still drive a standard vehicle, while others will have to modify their car or truck. If you plan on buying a new car, you might want to take advantage of generous rebates offered by most manufacturers. The rebate can be applied to the cost of mobility controls.
You will be required to undergo driver training by most mobility control installers before they proceed to modify a vehicle. This is because your reflexes need to adapt to the new controls to ensure that you can drive safely.
Although you’re not obligated to inform your insurance company or your state about your new mobility controls, we highly recommend telling your insurance company, so your modified vehicle is fully covered.
The most common device is a left foot accelerator, which is moved to the left of the brake pedal. If you choose this device, the existing accelerator will be covered so you don't accidentally step on it.
With this modified setup, the driver will control both the brake and the accelerator with his/her left foot. However, this control is one of the most difficult to adapt to because reflexes using the right foot for driving are deeply ingrained, and this is where driver training comes in handy.
The best part about these controllers is that they are relatively easy to remove and reinstall, so other drivers can still operate your car or truck.
Hand controls are usually recommended for people with a double leg amputation. Should you choose hand controls, the installers will block both the foot-controlled accelerator and brake. Both devices are then controlled by a lever-operated by the left hand. These controls require the driver to pull to accelerate and push to brake.
A steering wheel spinner knob is recommended for easy one-handed driving. The knob can also come with buttons for easy access to additional devices, such as lights, turn signals, or wipers. For drivers using a prosthetic hook, the knob is available with a ring.
If you’re using a wheelchair, some vans feature built-in ramps. These vans can also be configured for easy transfer to a driver’s seat from a wheelchair, or to carry passengers on wheelchairs. Check with mobility dealers if they offer used mobility vans.
If you’re planning to rent a vehicle, know that some rental car companies have cars with mobility controls. However, most are limited to hand controls, but a few will have a left foot accelerator. We suggest renting your car directly from a rental car company versus Expedia or Autorentals.com, and requesting a car with driving modifications.
The future of adaptive vehicles
Many people benefit from these available options, while others may feel they're limited. Fortunately, prosthetic and mobility companies are always working to improve and offer more personalized solutions.
For more information about driving after an amputation, you can visit the Adaptive Driving Alliance, Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association.