Medical Driving Evaluations

Driving With a Left Foot Accelerator

Posted by Joan Cramer on Feb 6, 2021 4:17:51 PM
Joan Cramer
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There are a number diagnostic groups for which a vehicle can be adapted to accommodate for the loss of the right foot function. The individual driving with a left foot accelerator must enter the process knowing it will require a great deal of training and practice to successfully learn to operate a vehicle in all conditions with this adaptation.

Common diagnoses that may benefit from a left foot accelerator include peripheral neuropathy (common with diabetes), amputations, complex fractures, and other neurological conditions affecting the use and control of the right foot and leg. As with all vehicle modifications, most states require a licensed driver to prove competency with the use of the adaptive devices before being issued a restricted license.   This process is available by working with a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist trained to assess and educate individuals to drive despite their medical conditions.

Success with the left foot accelerator correlates with an individual’s ability to cognitively process the new motor pattern required to operate the vehicle.  For individuals with medical conditions affecting their cognition (ie: dementia, aphasia, anxiety) the transition to using the left foot accelerator may not be as easy. Practice is commonly needed at a slow pace and in a location without traffic until there is mastery with the new pedal configuration.

Use of the left foot accelerator can be a rewarding option for some young adults who are born with anomalies, cerebral palsy or have limited function of their right lower extremity. Learning to drive with the left foot accelerator is no different than using the traditional vehicle configuration.   Watching a young new driver masterfully control a vehicle using the left foot accelerator is a humbling experience.   The vehicle modification allows them to accomplish a life goal and entry to a new phase toward adulthood.

To install a left foot accelerator into a vehicle, an equipment vendor is required to obtain a written vehicle equipment recommendation or prescription created by a certified driving rehabilitation specialist. This is to protect the client from purchasing equipment which may not be appropriate for them to drive with.  Prior to purchasing devices, the driver rehabilitation specialist would need to assess potential for using a modified vehicle and provide training on how to drive, in all conditions. They will ensure that using a left foot accelerator is safe for the individual and they have demonstrated the ability to operate a vehicle with the left foot accelerator in a safe manner.  The training is individualized and will proceed at the speed appropriate for the student.

Is the left foot accelerator appropriate for everyone?   Neurological conditions are common reasons that trigger a person to explore the options of driving with a left foot accelerator. Individuals who have experienced the loss of their right upper extremity function as well as their leg function may find the training with a left foot accelerator more challenging. A person who is unable to manage the wheel with both hands will likely need to use a spinner knob to control steering. Learning two new motor patterns at once often presents quite the challenge for these population.   Increased patience with the training process will be needed as the demand for cognitive processing is often greater as well.

To drive with a left foot accelerator, an individual must understand that safety is the primary consideration when determining what equipment is appropriate to use.   The process of getting a restricted license required by most states so this is another variable left foot accelerator user must work through prior to investing in training or purchasing of equipment.  

Topics: driver rehab, adaptive driving, left foot accelerator, equipment

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Our Driver Rehabilitation program works with patients whose change in health may affect their ability to safely drive. We have a team of Certified Driving Rehab Specialists that will work with patients on evaluating your driving abilities. We also have a team of professional instructors to help you gain or regain the skills you need to drive. We created this blog to talk about the various diagnoses we experience and how they may affect your experience behind the wheel. 

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