Driving a car

There is no reason why an amputee should not drive a car, bus, tractor, motorbike etc. Your previous driver's licence is still valid and you do not have to get medically assessed in order to drive. In exceptional cases, simple and inexpensive adjustments may be made, but the purchase of an automatic car solves most problems. If you have never driven an automatic car before, you might like to have a couple of lessons to polish up and regain your confidence - that is well worthwhile. However, if necessary your car can be modified, in which case you will need to be referred to an assessor. Your local Disability Resource Centre will be able to give you this information.

Vehicle modifications can include:

  • hand controls to brake and accelerator
  • steering and secondary control aids
  • left-foot accelerator conversions
  • clutch conversions
  • handbrake devices
  • additional car mirrors
  • seatbelt modifications (it should be noted that there are rarely any disabilities that would stop you from wearing a seatbelt)
  • harnesses
  • special seating
  • wheelchair stowage equipment

If your disability is more severe, the modifications can include:

  • joystick and foot steering (a four-way joystick can be used to steer, accelerate and brake)
  • infra-red remote control systems, which mean you can get in the vehicle and drive from a wheelchair with complete independence

If a vehicle has to be modified, the alterations will need to be carried out by a recognised organisation. Before you can use the vehicle on the road, it needs to display a certification label detailing the alterations.

After undergoing an amputation, you’ll need to consult with your doctor who may:

  • Issue a doctor’s certificate stating that you should only drive an automatic vehicle and/or the vehicle should be fitted with special mechanical devices
  • Refer you to a driving assessment service.

There is usually no difficulty adapting an artificial limb to a vehicle or a vehicle to a limb. For more information contact a driving assessment service. To find out where your nearest assessment service is, you can phoneEnable NZ call-free on 0800 171981 or Accessable on 0508 001002.

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