Driving a car can be one of the most liberating parts of everyday life. However, it can also be one of the most challenging, no matter who you are or where you’re driving.
This is especially true if you have any physical, visual, or mental difficulties, either resulting from an accident, age, or just the unique hurdles life throws in your way.
However, thanks to modern adaptive driving equipment, it’s possible to overcome almost any challenge you might have and experience (or regain) the freedom of the open road.
In this article, we’ll be exploring digital and mechanical hand controls for cars, including who might need them, how they work, and how you can go about getting them installed in your car.
Limited Leg Mobility and Similar Challenges
One incredibly common challenge that can limit your ability to drive a standard car safely is a lack of leg mobility, control, strength, or access.
This can occur for any number of reasons, including but not limited to:
- Peripheral neuropathy of the feet
- Long-term leg injuries
- Spinal cord injury
- Short stature
- Or any other diagnosis that provides lower body limitations
In essence, these challenges arrive from the inability to operate the gas pedal and brake pedal effectively, which is vitally important to driving successfully and safely.
How Hand Controls for Your Car Help
Hand controls are driving aids that enable a person with lower body limitations to operate a vehicle independently, mainly by providing access and control to the gas pedal and brake pedal.
In older modified vehicles, these may have taken the form of pedal extensions or physical brake and gas levers. But in modern times, there are a wide variety of devices that work both mechanically or electronically to help suit your specific situation.
For example, most adaptive hand controls can be customized to the strength of your hands, wrists, and shoulders, to make sure that you can comfortably and safely operate your vehicle.
Customizing to Your Unique Situation
PC: Totalability Hand Controls
There are a number of different ways to customize hand controls to your unique situation.
If you have limited strength, which makes management of braking a challenge, then these devices can be modified for variable resistance.
The type of effort needing to control the accelerator and brake can also be changed. For example, if you find it easier to operate a simple lever vs a twist knob, or a motorcycle-style throttle compared to a more grip-focused device, it’s possible to make these changes too.
And finally, depending on your hand and arm function, the location of the hand controls themselves can be moved to best suit your particular needs.
How Do You Get Hand Controls?
All adaptive driving devices are prescribed by trained professionals, usually Certified Driver Rehabilitation specialists, who usually create a prescription for what devices a vendor can install.
While working with one of these specialists, you’ll usually start with an assessment of what unique challenges face you on the road. Then, after determining which equipment is needed to help you safely drive, you’ll start training with your equipment in a training vehicle.
After displaying that you can safely operate a vehicle using the prescribed device, your specialist can then work with you to have your new equipment installed.
In some cases, if you require individualized or custom equipment, you’ll work with your CDRS to have the equipment installed first (usually along with an instructor brake). Then, you’ll be able to train with your CDRS in your vehicle and be certified as safe to drive once you’ve shown you can operate it safely.
Taking the Next Step | The Next Street Approach
Here at The Next Street Driver Rehab, we can come to you or host you at one of our offices for an initial assessment. This comprehensive clinical session will help us work with you to determine the exact physical, cognitive, and visual challenges you might have.
From there, we can make a recommendation as to what equipment you might need, and help you start training!
If you’re starting to train with hand controls, we have a number of options in our fleet of training vehicles. In addition, we always try to start your training in a familiar location, so you can get used to your new equipment.
From there, our instructors will work with you extensively to make sure that you’re comfortable in any number of situations on the road, and are always able to help navigate any challenges thanks to their installed dual-controls.
Finally, once you’re comfortable with your ability behind the wheel, our instructors can help you make the transition to getting safely certified on the road. This can include guiding you through DMV criteria for adaptive equipment use, and assistance in preparation for any tests you may have to pass.
In all, our goal is to guide you every single step along the way. We start with identifying your unique challenges, then move on to identifying, training, and certifying you in equipment that will help you safely enjoy the freedom of the open road.
If you’d like to learn more or schedule an initial free consultation, you can reach out to us at our Consultation Homepage or at 860-483-7009.