When you need an adaptation to your vehicle to allow you to continue to drive, whether that's installing a new way of operating the steering or an accelerator/brake control that you operate with your hands rather than feet, knowing how that device works can be the difference between feeling secure or feeling unsafe on the road.
We generally take it for granted that we know how cars work, or we simply trust they do work. But when you adapt your driving controls to make them suitable for use with a disability, you need to be sure that those new controls offer the same level of safety as you'd expect from an unmodified vehicle.
The first step in making sure an adaptation will be safe is making sure it is suitable for you specifically. We've covered this topic in our guide on "How to choose the best driving aids...", so we won't cover the same ground here, but to recap:
- Different controls are suitable for different types of disability, affecting different areas of the body
- Within that, the choice of control can be affected by things like your range of motion, leg strength, and grip strength
- Different controls may do the same thing, but they do it in different ways to suit different needs and abilities
- There's no one-size-fits-all adaptation, it's about finding what will work for you
Choosing between different driving aids is a case of identifying which will allow you to have complete control of your vehicle, comfortably and safely. That may mean you need a combination of adaptations, which should be carefully considered and integrated together.
How it works
Understanding how something works is key to being comfortable with its safety, especially when your adaptation fundamentally changes how you operate part of your vehicle - using Electric Brake and Accelerator to control your brakes and accelerator using your hands, for example.
So, how does it work?
- The control device is connected to the part of the vehicle it is controlling (e.g. the accelerator) via a motor
- A sensor sends a signal from the device to say that you have activated that function
- The computer within the system is set up using data about your individual strength and movement
- The software then calculates how hard you pushed/pulled/etc. and determines the appropriate proportion of force to use on the vehicle control
It may sound slightly complicated but this system means that, not only can you control your vehicle, you can control it fully. You can "slam on the brakes" when you need to, even though you're using a hand control rather than a foot pedal. You can turn the wheel sharply even when using a joystick or mini wheel, for example.
Electronic driving adaptations have a series of redundancies and backups. If one system fails, another kicks in to replace it. The likelihood of failure is minimal, especially if you have your vehicle and adaptations regularly serviced, but those backup systems are there just in case. It's always better to have them and not need them, after all.
Qualified and experienced installation
As well as being serviced, you do need to ensure your driving aids are installed by a qualified and experienced technician. It's vital to make sure everything is set up correctly, not just in terms of the physical installation but also in terms of customising the adaptation to your individual strength. SDL have over 30 years' experience in this area, we've carried out thousands of vehicle adaptations, conversions, and customisations, and there's a good reason our clients come back to us whenever they change vehicles.
From a safety perspective, getting the right controls, installed and set up to the right parameters, is the best way to feel secure and comfortable on the road. And, most importantly, be able to enjoy driving your vehicle independently.