Driving After An Amputation
Can I Legally Drive Following an Amputation?
Following any type of amputation, the DVLA must be contacted. This is true regardless of the type of amputation, however small. Non-disclosure can result in a fine of up to £1000 if the DVLA is not informed about any condition which may affect your driving.
What Happens When I Inform The DVLA?
The DVLA will assess your fitness and ability to drive – the site and nature of the amputation will determine the outcome. Following the assessment, the DVLA will issue one of the following:
- A full licence
- Medical review licence (this may be valid for 1, 2 or 3 years)
- A licence to drive an automatic car
In some extreme rare cases, the DVLA may refuse a licence – this decision however, can be appealed if you don’t agree with it.
Do I Have to Tell My Insurance Company?
The insurance company must be informed about amputation and any other type of disability.
Following amputation, it may not be possible to drive a regular manual car, although this does not mean that it is no longer possible to drive. Automatic cars make driving considerably easier and there are numerous vehicle adaptations available which enable thousands of individuals to maintain their independence following amputation. The type of adaptation made to your vehicle will very much depend on the nature of the amputation.
Primary Control Adaptions
These are specifically designed to allow those unable to use a standard foot pedal to be able to break and accelerate via hand controls rather than the legs. Hand controls offer a good solution following leg amputation. There are numerous different types of hand controls available on the market, it is therefore a good idea to try them out on a demonstration model for suitability. Different types of hand controls include:
- Push/Pull Hand Controls – These are suitable for most types of automatic vehicle, the basic function works by pushing forward to brake and pulling back to accelerate.
- Over Ring and Push Brake – The Over Ring is positioned above the steering wheel and can be gently depressed by the hand to activate the accelerator.
- Under Ring and Push Brake – The Under Ring works in a similar way to the Over Ring, but is situated behind the steering wheel. Acceleration is achieved by pulling the ring towards the steering wheel.
- Radial Hand Controls – Usually lighter than the traditional push/pull device, Radial Hand Controls are of a similar nature to push and pull controls. A lever is mounted underneath the steering wheel with brake and accelerator functions.
There are numerous steering aids available on the market which help to ensure driving, parking and general manoeuvrability is not only easier, but also safer.
- Infra-Red Controls – These allow the driver to operate multiple functions whilst steering the car, by means of a control panel attached to the steering device.
- Steering Knobs/Balls – the steering knob allows the driver to have full control of the steering wheel, using only one hand.
- Lightened Power Steering – This is suitable for drivers using only 1 hand to steer, the power steering makes it possible to steer the wheel easily and lightly.
There are a wide range of left foot accelerators (LFA) available on the market – all of which allow operation of the brake and accelerator using the left foot rather than the right. LFAs are not always recommended for those who have previously driven a manual car – there have been a number of accidents involving drivers who are not used to them.
Electronic accelerators provide the ideal solution for those with lower limb disabilities and some upper body weakness. They are typically fitted with a mechanical push brake, however electronic braking systems are also available. Different types of electronic accelerators include:
- The Over Ring – This is positioned above the steering wheel, to achieve acceleration the light weight ring is gently pushed towards the steering wheel. Over Ring accelerators can be fitted to most vehicles. They are usually subtle in appearance and blend with the vehicle’s original equipment.
- The Under Ring – This sits under the steering wheel rather than on top of it, the Under Ring is lightweight and sensitive.
- Trigger – A small, lightweight electronic trigger can be operated with the index finger to control the accelerator.
Secondary Control System
Secondary control systems can be extremely useful for those with upper limb amputations, as they are positioned so that the driver doesn’t have to take their hands off the steering wheel. Such systems may include multifunction key pads, digital touch pads or voice control.
There are various pedal modifications available to facilitate driving for those with a lower limb amputation. Pedal modifications include:
- Hinged Pedals
- Flip Up Pedals
Returning to driving with adaptations may take some getting used to, many mobility centres offer driving assessments and specialist instructors to help clients how to drive using adaptations. This typically takes place in a car with adapted controls, or in your own newly adapted vehicle.
How We Can Help
All Shropshire Mobility is a vehicle adaptation company based in Shropshire, offering a bespoke service with a fully equipped workshop and 3 service vans for mobile fitting, as well as demonstration equipment for customers to view and try out products for purchase. Get in touch today for more information.