Believe it or not, driving after spinal cord injury is definitely possible! Although they require a little getting used to, car adaptations for spinal cord injury patients allow for new-found freedom outside one’s home.
Benefits of Driving After Spinal Cord Injury
Driving after spinal cord injury gives people a completely new level of independence and helps boost self-confidence.
SCI patients with less functional independence are more likely to develop depression than those who have mobility.
Being able to drive after spinal cord injury helps them carry on with life as normally as possible and opens up many doors of opportunity.
Driving allows SCI patients to have reliable transportation so that they can go to work, socialize, and run errands on their own.
Is Driving After Spinal Cord Injury Dangerous?
Driving after spinal cord injury requires learning a new technique by utilizing car adaptations.
However, once you get used to it, driving after spinal cord injury is no more dangerous than driving before spinal cord injury.
SCI patients can get permits and licenses just like any non-disabled person can; they just have to go through a different process to ensure that they’re physically able to safely drive.
Not everyone with SCI will be able to drive. You need to get a clinical evaluation and driving evaluation through a driving rehabilitation program.
The clinical evaluation will check physical functions and cognitive skills to make sure that you’re physically able to drive without harming yourself or others.
Range of motion, balance, and fine motor skills play a huge role in determining if you’re functionally able to drive.
Although you don’t necessarily need your legs to drive, arm function is necessary.
If you pass the clinical evaluation, the next step is to undergo a driving evaluation using car adaptations for spinal cord injury patients.
Based on the driving evaluation, you will be prescribed car adaptations specific to your SCI.
Your vehicle then undergoes modifications and fittings with the installer and your driving therapist to make sure that it appropriately matches your specific needs.
Once your vehicle is ready, you’ll have training sessions to learn how to drive with your new car adaptations.
Although driving with car adaptations for spinal cord injury may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, it gets easier with practice!
Check out the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists to find a certified driver rehabilitation specialist to perform your driving evaluation.
What Kind of Car Adaptations for Spinal Cord Injury Patients Are There?
Car adaptations for spinal cord injury patients are customized specifically for each individual.
They’re made to ensure that you can drive as safely and as smoothly as possible.
Car adaptations for spinal cord injury patients include:
- hand controls for steering, brake, or gas
- automatic doors
- convertible roofs
- wheelchair lifts/ ramps
- all-direction seat adjusters
Watch the video below to see how people with all different types of SCIs are driving with car adaptations!
Things to Consider Before Getting Car Adaptations for Spinal Cord Injury Patients
With so many available car adaptations, there’s no reason why your spinal cord injury should get in your way!
However, it is important to be realistic with yourself and your situation.
Driving after spinal cord injury may not be for everybody, so make sure to really consider all the pros and cons before jumping into such a big decision.
Ask yourself these 4 questions before getting car adaptations:
- How are you going to get in and out of your car? Can you get in and out of your car on your own or will you need assistance?
- What is your budget? Car adaptations for spinal cord injury patients are not cheap. Do you want to get a new car or modify one you already have? Be sure to do some research about financial assistance.
- Is there enough room for your wheelchair and other assistive devices? Do you need a ramp or a wheelchair lift you get into your car? Can another person fit once all your assistive gear is inside? Think about what you’d like to accomplish by driving and determine how large or small of a car you’ll need.
- How far do you plan on driving and what are the conditions like? Do you need to drive a short 15-minute commute to and from work or are you planning on driving for hours in traffic? Will you drive locally or on the freeway? Driving for too long can be especially uncomfortable and tiring for SCI patients.
That’s a Wrap!
Driving after spinal cord injury helps people take control of their independence.
Car adaptations will help ensure your safety on the road and allow you to live life as normally as you can after spinal cord injury.
Although not all SCI patients will be able to drive, it’s definitely an option to look into for those eager to expand their mobility.