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PUBLISHED:
November 30, 2022
Updated:
February 16, 2024
|
by
Eddie Zepeda

Driving with a Prosthetic Leg

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 a provider of medical prosthetics in New Mexico, PrimeCare is here to help.

How a Limb Amputation Can Affect Your Driving

How a Limb Amputation Can Affect Your 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  

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.

Legal Considerations

First, you should 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

Accessibility & Car Modifications for Users with Prosthetics

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.

What Types of Vehicles Can Be Adapted for Amputees?

What Types of Vehicles Can Be Adapted for Amputees?

Vehicles with automatic transmission are generally adaptable for amputees using a prosthetic limb. There are even specific modifications available for some bikes for amputees who are motorcycle enthusiasts. If you're looking into getting these modifications, be aware that funding sources often consider the vehicle's age and its condition to ensure it's safe for the road before they agree to provide financial assistance for the adaptations.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers a comprehensive range of resources concerning driving with vehicle adaptations. They provide advice on how to acquire the necessary modifications for your vehicle and furnish information on accessing any essential training to ensure a safe and comfortable driving experience.

Obtaining a Disabled Parking Permit

When mobility is a challenge, having a disabled parking permit can be a game-changer for lower-limb amputees. This permit grants you the convenience of parking closer to buildings and venues, making your daily outings more manageable.

Obtaining a handicap parking permit in New Mexico is a straightforward process for eligible individuals. Residents with disabilities can apply for various types of permits, including temporary and permanent placards, handicap license plates, and disabled veteran license plates.

To qualify for a handicap parking pass, applicants must meet specific criteria related to mobility limitations. A licensed physician's medical certification is required for these conditions.

The application process involves completing the Certificate of Eligibility for Parking Placard for Mobility Impaired Individuals (Form MVD-10383) and submitting it, along with the medical certification section, to any New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division office for processing. For those applying for a handicap license plate, an additional form, the Application for Mobility Limitation (HP) License Plate (Form MVD-10270), must be completed and mailed to the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division.

When a permanent handicap pass in New Mexico expires, it can be renewed by filling out the self-certification section on the application. Temporary placards, however, cannot be renewed, and a new application with medical certification must be submitted. License plates are renewed along with the vehicle registration.

Enhancing Mobility Through Public Transport

Enhancing Mobility Through Public Transport

Public transport serves as a vital lifeline for many, including prosthetic limb users. It plays a crucial role in ensuring accessible and convenient transportation, not only for individuals with disabilities but also for pregnant women, parents with strollers, and the elderly.

For prosthetic limb users seeking improved accessibility and potential transport concessions, it's essential to explore local public transport authorities.

Examples of accessible public transport services in New Mexico are:

The Albuquerque Sun Van Paratransit Service

Operated by ABQ RIDE, this service provides vital transportation to residents and visitors in the Albuquerque metropolitan area whose impairments prevent them from using fixed-route services. To access this service, individuals need to be ADA-certified through an interview process at the Transit Department Administrative Offices. Sun Van serves the Albuquerque City Metropolitan area, extending its reach within three-quarters of a mile along ABQ RIDE fixed bus routes. Additionally, door-to-door service is available upon reservation, enhancing accessibility for those with mobility challenges.

The Dial-A-Ride Service

Offered by the City of Las Cruces RoadRunner Transit, this service provides on-demand transportation for qualified individuals with disabilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Dial-A-Ride service features wheelchair-accessible vehicles operated by specially trained drivers, ensuring safe and convenient mobility. An added benefit for riders in the region is the zero-fare service provided by RoadRUNNER Transit, allowing unlimited rides on RoadRUNNER buses at no cost. To access these services, individuals with disabilities can complete an application to qualify for this essential mobility support.

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 help 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.