Right Driver

Can you drive after an amputation?

Existing drivers

You must tell DVLA if you have had a limb amputated, but DVLA does not specify how much of that limb has to be amputated before you tell them. Therefore it’s best to disclose it even if it’s just a finger (especially for motorbike riders). You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving. You may be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result.

DVLA will assess the injury and will send you a letter confirming one or more of the following:

a) you are OK to continue driving with no changes to your vehicle

b) you need to take a medical or driving test and/or have modifications to your vehicle (this may have to be repeated periodically)

c) you can only drive an automatic vehicle

d) you are not allowed to drive.

You can appeal if you don’t agree with DVLA’s decision.

You must disclose your amputation to your insurance company and tell them about any specific modifications to your car or motorbike and any limitations imposed on your driving licence.

Learner drivers

Learner drivers should seek a specialist instructor and a vehicle with adapted controls. When applying for a licence, disclose your disability.

Practical mobility decisions with your vehicle

If you are in a wheelchair you may need to choose a different vehicle or have your vehicle modified so that getting in and out is easier. Doors can be made to open wider, ramps can be installed and you can buy bridging plates to help you slide across into the seat more easily. Some vehicles have much taller doors than others. Additional handholds can be added. Seats can be modified to go up or down, backwards or forwards further than standard.

You may need seat modifications to maintain your comfort.

You may need specialist controls; you must be able to reach all the major controls while driving – indicators, lights, wipers, gears. If you have had a hand or arm amputated then you will need a steering wheel spinner. These can come with built-in controls, too.

You could consider vehicles that have easier access and locking functions such as automatic keyless entry and start.

If you have lost a leg you will need to purchase an automatic vehicle or have a clutch wired to the gearstick. If it’s your right leg then you must have the accelerator moved to the left of the brake pedal which takes a lot of getting used to. In some cases you may need to move the foot controls to be hand controls.

Power steering can be made lighter and a steering wheel spinner will help.

Cruise control (especially semi-autonomous features such as radar cruise control) can make it easier for a driver

Electronic handbrakes are easier to activate than conventional handbrake levers or footbrakes.

Hill hold makes it easier to control the vehicle when starting uphill and parking assistance makes it more simple to park.

Voice-activated features mean less need to use hand controls

Paddle-shift gearboxes are suitable for those who have lost a limb.

This PDF explains more about how to choose a car and what products are available.

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

Posted in Advice