Following a serious injury, it may be necessary to make adaptations to your car or purchase a new car to enable you to continue driving.
There are hundreds of different adaptations available for all your needs, and they aim to make driving as comfortable as possible, as well as ensuring you have full control. Adaptations can also assist with things such as stowing wheelchairs and scooters and getting in and out of the car.
When thinking about what adaptations you may need, you should consider what tasks about driving are difficult and what could make it easier.
There are broadly three categories to car adaptations:
Driving adaptations can help a person to drive independently where they would otherwise be unable to. They can help with controlling speed, steering and signalling.
Some common driving adaptations include:
- Hand controls – these are used if you have difficulty using standard foot pedals. Hand controls allow you to use push and pull levers to accelerate and brake.
- Electronic accelerators – these can be used if foot pedals and hand control levers are unsuitable. There are several different types of electronic accelerators.
- Left-foot accelerators – these are used if you have limited mobility in your right leg. It allows you to control your speed with your left foot.
- Extended pedals – these are used if you have difficulty reaching standard foot pedals. They can help you to have better control over the car.
- Steering aids – these can include adaptations such as steering balls to allow steering with one hand.
- Remote control devices – these devices help with other controls such as windscreen wipers, indicators and headlights.
Systems to help you with stowage are essential where wheelchairs or scooters need to be lifted into vehicles. Boot hoists and rooftop stowage can both help by taking the weight of the wheelchair or scooter to allow them to be safely guided into the boot of the car or rooftop stowage unit.
The type of wheelchair or scooter you have will determine what type of adaptations are appropriate for you.
There are lots of adaptations that can be made to standard cars to make them more accessible. These can include:
- Transfer plates – these are fitted to the side of a car seat and can assist you with transferring from a wheelchair to a car seat. When not in use, they can be folded away either manually or electronically.
- Electric person hoist – this is a hoist that can lift you from a wheelchair into the car. These are more suitable if you have lower upper body strength and are unable to transfer yourself.
- Swivel seats – these seats can turn, move in and out of the car and tip to make access easier.
Before you go ahead with any adaptations to your car, you should speak to an experienced mobility dealership. They will be able to advise you on the most suitable adaptations for your condition, as well as advise on what cars are appropriate for these adaptations.
It is also a good idea to visit a Driving Mobility Centre for an assessment. They will be able to assess your driving ability and provide in-depth advice on different adaptations available. You will also be able to try out different adaptations to check they are suitable for your needs.
If you decide to make any adaptations or modifications to your car, it is important you inform your insurer. If you fail to notify them of any changes, your insurance could be invalid. Any adaptations, big or small, should be declared to your insurance company and reflected in your policy.