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Amputee Driving 

Jenrobinson

A wonderful question was brought up at our Amputees Together support group meeting last night.  A common question for a new amputee, whether he or she has experienced upper or lower extremity amputation, is... "How will I drive?" 

Many of us in the limb loss community experienced anxiety when anticipating post-amputation driving.  Personally, as a congenital right above knee amputee, I tuck my prosthesis back and use my left foot for both the brake and gas.  As a teenager, I was evaluated with this method and the driving instructor concluded this method was safe for me.  More importantly, I was comfortable.  But what about people who experience amputation as adults? 

There are many vehicle modifications that can be made to accommodate limb loss.  Three common examples are a left foot accelerator extension, hand controls, and driving pins on the steering wheel (for upper extremity amputees).  Funding for car modifications is a major issue.  For individuals looking to join to the work force, or already working, Vocational Rehabilitation may consider funding for such modifications.  Funding from local charities is also a possibility.    

To determine whether a vehicle modification is necessary, and to develop the safest method for driving, a new amputee should be re-evaluated by a driving instructor.  Information on this can be found at any DMV office.  This evaluation would ideally occur post-prosthetic fitting, if a prosthesis will be utilized.  There may be limitations placed on the amputee’s license.  I am only authorized to drive an automatic.  If I do otherwise, I would be held liable for damage if an accident occurs.

The vehicle itself also has a role to play.  I purchased a vehicle with plenty of leg room and a removable middle console (Honda CRV), so that I have more room for my prosthesis.  Also, the steering wheel is highly adjustable.

What’s interesting is that you can have two amputees, same amputation level, and each person may use a very different method of driving.  Some below the knee amputees are able to drive stick shift.  Some do not feel comfortable doing this.  Some people opt to remove the lower extremity prosthesis entirely for driving.  Many people simply figure out their own way, the way that feels most comfortable for them.  I’m sure that many people do not seek re-evaluation by a driving instructor, though I believe safety is the most critical thing to consider. 

I’d be interested in hearing from others on this… how did you learn to drive post-amputation?  What was your experience like?  



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Comments

glojr33566 : re: Amputee Driving commented on Friday, July 30, 2010 8:47:55 PM
Many people have asked me this how do drive. Like you I do not feel comfortable driving a stick and probably would not because I would wind up injuring someone besides myself. I always drive with the left leg/lost the right one. I don't have ability to move the right one to feel comfortable enough to use on acceralator or the brake. Gloria
OldCrowe : re: Amputee Driving commented on Friday, June 18, 2010 5:15:42 PM
Driving and getting place to place with limb loss offers many challenges. The act of actually driving is just part of it. After talking to your doctor and coming to terms with what accommodations your have to make in your new life with limb loss. Just being able to drive is just the beginning. You have other things to think about. Simple task like getting gas can become a roadblock to your getting around. I am a left leg BK and sometimes need to use my wheelchair to get around. I have to make sure I have enough gas for my round trip when using my wheelchair because pulling up to gas pumps leaving room to unload my chair places my truck out away from the pumps and depending on the gas station pump layout places my truck in the lane of other people pulling up to there pumps. Or having to hop out on my right leg and hopping down the side of my truck and balancing while I pump gas is no easy task. Now that you have gas and drive to your next stop you have to park. There are never enough handicap parking spaces so you find yourself parking out in the regular parking areas. Most regular parking spaces do not allow us to be able to open our door to their full open potion. Making it tough and awkward to get my left leg out of my truck and I have seen the amused faces of passersby’s as they watch though my halfway open door my 6’4” frame almost laying flat across my seat having to twist my leg just to get my foot out. There has been times to get back into my truck after someone has parked to close to the driver side door that I have had to squeezed in behind the driver side door and then remove my prosthetic leg to get it in my truck. There are seemingly small things that become roadblocks / speed bumps that once you loose a limb you have to think about and plan out. Life is an adventure and driving make living that adventure easier we just have to plan… Ken…

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