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1401 S Don Roser Dr. Ste E2 Las Cruces, NM 88011
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updated:
November 30, 2022
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by
Eddie Zepeda

Driving with a Prosthesis

Prosthetics

Many people who experience limb loss and have a prosthetic leg wonder, can amputees drive? Yes, however, the answer is a bit complicated as there are many factors in play. Where your amputation took place can impact your ability to use the steering wheel, controls, pedals, or even your overall stability level in the vehicle. It’s important that you’re assessed for the level of impact as this will determine any conditions that you have on your license as well as vehicle modifications. As providers of medical prosthetics in New Mexico, PrimeCare is here to help.

How a Limb Amputation Can Affect Your Driving

right leg amputee driving

Regardless of the limb that was impacted or how much of it has been removed, it’s still possible to make a full return to driving in the majority of instances:

  • Combining the right amount of healing time in addition to adaptive devices, many leg amputees can continue to drive or relearn how to operate various aspects such as operating the gas, brakes, and clutch using their good leg or their prosthetic device.
  • Right-leg amputee driving is a possibility as well.
  • Some amputees find their prosthetics to be helpful while others find them to be awkward and in the way. In this case, some people might choose to remove the prosthetic to have better control over the vehicle.
  • Arm amputees might be able to continue to relearn how to drive, but others might need a special adaptive device to operate different controls.

What to Remember Before Driving with an Amputation

Amputee driving is not one-size-fits-all. Based on the condition of your residual limb and your prosthesis, you might need to make modifications to your car’s setup.

Here are some tips for driving with your prosthetic leg successfully:

  • Follow the advice of your physical therapist and your physician.
  • Always talk with them about specific goals for driving and work with them on exercises that can improve your coordination, strength, flexibility, etc. to maximize your physical ability to safely drive a car.
  • Keep in mind that the specific therapy activities that you do will be based significantly on the type and severity of your amputation.
  • If you have a lower limb leg prosthetic in addition to other physical complications such as a traumatic brain injury or a spinal cord injury, make sure this is addressed with your medical team.

Important Steps Before Driving with a Prosthetic  

can amputees drive

Driving after a limb amputation is completely possible as long as you follow the right steps. We’ve outlined some general steps that you can follow to ensure you feel confident both mentally and physically behind the wheel.

First, you’ll want to know that it’s a legal requirement that you get in touch with the transport authority in your state of any change in medical condition or surgery that could impact your ability to drive. This is true if you will be driving with a prosthetic leg. They will inform you of the next steps required to legally drive.

Appointment with Your Doctor and Prosthetist

In addition, you’ll need to make an appointment with your doctor as they’ll need to complete your medical record for you. Any forms from your state or territory authority should be filled in during this time as well, and you’ll be able to ask your doctor for assistance as needed. Some patients may also need other medical reports from specialists.

Off-Road Assessment

Your off-road assessment will include asking you various questions about your driving and medical history in addition to testing your knowledge of the road rules. Your visual, sensory, and thinking abilities will be tested as well.

Occupational Therapy Driving Assessment

Driving after right-leg amputation could involve other assessments. Various health professionals such as an accredited occupational therapist might assess your medical ability to drive. This could include advising the driver licensing authorities regarding the patient’s health and medical conditions and how they might impact their driving ability.

Accessibility & Car Modifications for Users with Prosthetics

amputee driving

It’s possible to return to driving after lower extremity amputations. Some patients who undergo an amputation need modifications made within the car itself. The specific modifications depend on the exact injury and the type of car that’s being operated.

Driving with an Upper-Limb Amputation

In the case that you’re driving with upper-limb amputation, you will likely be using upper-extremity prosthetics for assistance:

  • For example, you might need to add a steering knob to give you better one-hand control over the vehicle.
  • Depending on the arm that has experienced an amputation, you might also need to make modifications to your dashboard controls for easier access to turn signals, wipers, headlights, etc.
  • Other patients might need a foot steering system as it allows for better control of the vehicle.

Driving with a Lower-Limb Amputation

Driving with below-knee amputations such as if you’re driving with a right-foot prosthesis is still possible:

  • Some people are able to drive using the original pedals, but many still need to learn how to maneuver their limbs differently.
  • You’ll need to get used to relying on feedback from your residual limb and proprioception, or the feeling of where your limb is in space.
  • If needed, there are hand-operated brakes and accelerators in addition to height-adjustable seats.

Conclusion

As you can tell, it is completely possible to return to driving even if you’ve experienced an amputation of an upper or lower-body part. One of the most important parts is partnering with the right team that can guide you through each step of the process and helps you grow your confidence. If you’re looking for more guidance during this process, our team at Prime Care Prosthetics is here to help you! Contact us for the best prosthetic devices in Las Cruces and surrounding areas.

Request an Evaluation

If you have questions or you are ready to talk about prosthetic options, feel free to schedule a consultation at our clinic.

A grandfather with a prosthesis walks with his grandchildren.