Depending on the nature of the lower limb amputation, there is commonly the view for the assessment to prescribe vehicle modifications. The prescription of vehicle modifications is completed by a driver trained Occupational Therapist (OT). These are specialised OTs who have undergone extra training and study to complete these assessments. The completion of an OT driving assessment is the RMS-approved mechanism to assess a person’s fitness to drive following a lower limb amputation, as well as identify suitable modifications.
Once the RMS is notified of the amputation, they review the information and depending on the person’s condition, situation and likelihood of requiring modifications, they may downgrade their licence to a learner. In such instances, the licence remains a learner’s until the person successfully passes the OT driving assessment. For people requiring vehicle modifications, they also need to complete the RMS disability driving test.
What vehicle modifications are available?
Driving requires the delicate coordination of a person’s physical, cognitive and visual functioning. After a lower limb amputation, the driver’s physical capacity to control the vehicle foot controls may be severely affected. The options available to the person depend on which limb was amputated, the nature of the amputation, and if they require vehicle modifications to drive to RMS standards.
Drivers who have had both lower limbs amputated are likely to need modifications that enable them to use all vehicle controls with their upper limbs, known as hand controls. Hand controls allows them to utilise the brake and accelerator with their hands. This may also apply for a right lower limb amputation, unless the person has a prosthesis that they can drive with. Another possibility is a left foot accelerator, where the accelerator is moved to the left side of the foot brake, so the person does not need to utilise their right foot to drive. It is important to specify, however, that any prosthesis is classed as a vehicle modification by the RMS. Thus, the person must still undergo the RMS disability test. If the amputation occurred on the left lower limb only, typically the person’s driving is not affected, as the left leg is not generally required to drive, though they will often still be referred for an OT driving assessment. Usually, drivers who have had any lower limb amputation are restricted to driving automatic vehicles only.