A guide for driving with prosthetics
By: Philippa Harrington, On: 29 June 2020
Getting used to your new prosthetic limb after an amputation is not always easy, but there is no reason why your driving days have to be over. With a bit of preparation and a few small changes, you can drive as before with your new limb, and here are our top tips on how to do so.
The legal side
The first thing you need to do when you start to drive again after an amputation is to inform the DVLA about your change in circumstances. They’ll need to assess you before passing you fit to drive, and while this may result in you being given a full licence again, they may also restrict you to an automatic or specialist vehicle licence depending on the nature of your disability. Failing to do this can result in a fine of £1000 and points on your licence, so it should always be your first move. Click here for more information.
What’s the best car?
Another pressing concern is what kind of car you’ll be driving. This greatly depends on the nature of your disability, and in some cases, you might be able to keep driving your existing car as it is or with modifications, but it can often mean that you require a new car entirely. For some people, this will simply be because they require an automatic transmission as they cannot change gears easily anymore. But for those who now need extra space for a wheelchair, it could mean a specially adapted vehicle. The easiest way to decide is to make a checklist of your new needs and decide what extra features you require from your car to make you comfortable.
Just about any feature of a car can be adapted to allow a person with a prosthetic limb to use it, but whether the most comfortable and cost effective option will be a new or adapted car depends on your particular circumstances. Arm or hand loss tends to be the easiest injury to adapt a car to, as these types of injuries can often be compensated for by simpler adaptations like steering wheel grips or extended indicators to make them easier to use. Foot and leg loss can often result in more extensive changes that can require anything from wheelchair access in the car or a hand operated clutch. We’d recommend a professional assessment of your needs and the options available to you, which can be provided by many retailers of specialist equipment.
How can I adapt?
While adapting your car can be necessary to get you back on the road, to stay comfortable and safe when you drive you may also need to change the way you would normally use your car. One thing you will need to do is ensure you always have a care package in your car in case you have an emergency on the road. This can contain everything from wraps and lotions to take care of irritation or rubbing on the affected limb, all the way to emergency items like a spare phone. You’ll also need to change your driving habits, and you may not be able to manage some of the long distance hauls you used to take for granted because of the extra strain that driving places on your injury. As a result, you will need to plan your journeys carefully so that the outward and return legs of the trip are within your new tolerances. Once again, this can be mitigated by car adaptations that lessen or remove these strains entirely, but only practice and experimentation can reveal what is right for you.
What help is available?
There are a number of ways that you can receive help as a disabled driver, from financial aid to tax deductions that can make it easier to get back on the road. For example, depending on the level of your disability, you could be exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty and all disabled drivers are exempt from VAT on specially adapted vehicles or adaptations to their existing car. You can also take out insurance specifically designed for disabled motorists which makes it easier to find affordable cover.
Depending on your circumstances, many or all of the services that you might need such as help finding and specifying a new vehicle or navigating the rules and regulations around you getting back behind the wheel can be found free of charge, so checking your rights and status is always a good idea. Losing a limb need not be the end of your driving career, and with the proper changes, you can be back behind the wheel in no time at all.