Unsuitable Hand Controls are the Dangerous
What do I mean by unsuitable? I mean hand controls which are not installed properly. I also mean hand controls which do not feature the correct assistive technology based upon the requirements of the specific disabled driver.
Hand controls which are not installed properly are dangerous, and the sad fact is that most disabled vehicle shops do not do a good job of installing hand controls. Aside from embedded links I almost never both to ‘bold’ text, but despite me saying it people seem to trust the good people who make a fortune selling modified driving equipment to disabled people. Generally hand controls which are poorly installed feature aspects such as: being installed on the wrong side of the driver’s seat, not being positioned closely to the steering wheel, not have the height adjusted to the driver’s specifications, not have the angle placement adjusted to the driver’s specifications. These are minor grievances that will stress out and irritate even those with the most durable patience, but there are of course more serious problems. There are: hand controls which are not connected surely to the pedals and which wobble when engaged, hand controls which are not attached properly to the steering column, hand controls which lie too low down and entangle with one’s feet causing injury. Lots of potential problems can occur which is why I generally recommend simply buying and installing portable driving kits yourself, but for some reason people tend to trust heavily in disabled vehicle shops more than their own ability to follow instructions when installing portable hand controls. If you do want to trust your life to these people please do carry out an extended check plus long test drive to make sure everything is sturdy and comfortable.
What do I mean by hand controls which do not feature the correct assistive technology for disabled driver? I’m referring to the ‘assistive technology’ – either manual, mechanical, electronic or hydraulic mechanisms which aid the disabled driver and generally make hand controls less dangerous.
No hand controls are dangerous, they’re simply installed badly or do not suit the driver. In most cases drivers can choose manual or mechanical hand controls and they won’t be in any danger – but ultimately there are some instances where those with more serious disabilities require electronic or even hydraulic hand controls yet unknowingly opt for manual/mechanical options despite having more severe disabilities.
Generally it’s people who are both disabled plus have secondary conditions such as arthritis, MS, muscle atrophy and other issues which complicate the matter. If you have arthritis for example, plus you’re a paraplegic so you’re driving with no legs then I recommend a steering knob to help steering your car. Most drivers who cannot used their legs use one just to be safe but if you’re an arthritic driver they’re a must because they help you steering the vehicle much more effectively. That same arthritic drive will also benefit heavily from a hand control which does not require significant gripping strength – this includes all electronic and hydraulic hand controls plus some manual/mechanical hand controls which are made less dangerous because they have been modified to allow operation via the palm and arm without needing significant wrist or finger strength.
Hand Controls aren’t dangerous – the driver is
It’s easy to blame hand controls which don’t suit your disability or which have been poorly installed on other people, but ultimately it’s the drivers responsibility to do the necessary testing, checking and research to make sure the hand controls are safe, not dangerous.
For example if you want to drive with hand controls but you haven’t driven in a long time (or potentially have never driven) then I suggest your first step is learning to drive with hand controls. Yet, as obvious as this sounds many people do not and throw themselves in at the deep end. Learning how to drive with hand controls is an important responsibility just as checking to make sure they’re installed and correct for you. It’s not easy to learn how to drive as a disabled person and different people will take different lengths of time – taking it slow and being patient and prudent is the best course of action. You may want to get revving that engine one more time, but hold off, take your time and enjoy yourself.
There are some disabled people who cannot and should not drive. They’re a minority, that’s for sure, but I have been emailed by paraplegics who suffer occasional seizures and blackout for brief periods of time who want to drive and are willing to risk the dangers. What I say to them is what I’d say to you – “don’t be selfish, and don’t be silly”. If you are unfortunate enough to have something as serious as losing consciousness, even if it’s just for a few seconds then you’re not fit to sit behind that steering wheel. The Americans with Disabilities Act will certainly not protect you, and you are unfit for driving. It’s that simple. I’m not talking just about drivers who can suffer blackouts, but anyone with any ailment that can seriously affect driving in such a dangerous manner.
Incorrect Peripheral Equipment
Although I’ve mainly talked about hand controls being dangerous let’s not forget that there’s other equipment which are essentially to driving too. Steering wheel attachments and pedal guards are the two most important pieces of equipment you’ll need, and it’s important to recognize what’s right for you. By right for you I mean bother comfortable and safe. You might be able to tolerate an annoying Single Post MPS Monarch steering pin for 30 minutes but sooner or later your hand will become quickly fatigued and you may start taking risks or becoming lax, whereas because their tri-pin attachment would have been far more suited to you.
Don’t make the mistake of focusing solely on your hand controls. They’re just one part of a long equation and although hand controls aren’t dangerous they are sometimes perceived to be simply because of irresponsibility which is squared on the shoulders of the drivers. Hand controls aren’t dangerous; drivers are.