Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Learning To Drive...Again

I have been driving a car for thirty seven years minus the last four monthes when I was unable to drive because of the loss of my second leg. During the first thirty four years I drove a car the traditional way with my right leg. After the loss of my right leg in July 2008, I taught myself to drive with my left leg. It was much easier than you might think. Driving with my left leg became second nature to me surprisingly quick.

Now after the loss of my second leg, I found myself faced with learning to drive with a hand control. The older of my two sisters understood right away the loss freedom that you feel, when after all these years, you find yourself unable to drive. She was instrumental in finding out information about the installation of a hand control and of making sure I had the needed lessons to bring driving my car to fruition. I am eternally grateful to her for her concern, understanding and encouragement through this portion of my leg loss experience.

I had a total of three driving lessons with a hand contolled driving device. The hand control is a lever that is attached to the accelerator and brake with metal rods. The lever runs up the left side of the steering column. You push forward to brake and tip the lever down to accelerate. My driving instructor, an excellant teacher, was pleased with my ability to adapt to this new way of driving so readily. The number of driving lessons required to learn to drive with a hand control is determined by the instructor. Fortunately, I was able to relearn driving in the minimal number of lessons required, which is three. After learning to drive with a hand control, in my instructor's altered car, I had a hand control installed in my own car.

Last Friday I had my personal assistant drive me to the shop where the hand conrtol was installed, I then drove the car home by myself and he followed. As luck would have it, it was raining all the way home from the surburbs. I will admit I was a little nervous but everything went well.

A few days later I drove my car to Rush Medical Center for my biweekly physical therapy, my assistant was in the car beside me. It was just before the onset of morning rush hour and fortunately the traffic was relatively light, at least in Chicago terms. I arrived safely.

Switching from driving with my right leg, to my left leg and now with my left hand is quite a change. One of the difficulties I experience is the fact that you also operate the turn signals with your left hand. This requires some forethought to be able to squeeze in turning on your signal in addition to braking and accelerating.

Needless to say I missed turning on my signal a couple of times. In the past, other drivers not using their turn signals was a pet peeve of mine. I was never a person who drove with much, if any, road rage. I was never a horn blower or a person who used obscene hand gestures or anything like that. I did however get irritated when people didn't use their signals, I thought that was being inconsiderate to other drivers in addition to being lazy. I always try to be considerate to other drivers and not keep them guessing what my next move will be.

So where do I find myself now? I am in the process of learning to incorporate the use of my turn signals in addition to braking and accelerating all with my left hand and of course steering with my right hand. It made me think that perhaps we as drivers, don't take into consideration why another driver might not use their signal. It might not be inconsideration, lack of forethought or laziness, but an extenuating circumstance we are unaware of. It is easy to accuse other drivers of doing things we feel are unsafe or inconsiderate, but the fact of the matter is we all do things on occasion that are also unsafe and potentionally dangerous. I am not talking about such major infractions as talking/texting on your cell phone, putting on makeup or anything as dangerous as that, which of course is unlawful and unacceptable. I am talking about using your turn signals or waiting to turn them on after you have stopped at a light, slight infractions of that sort. I have reconsidered my feelings and I am going to take into account other possiblities I wouldn't have considered before and try to be more tolerate.

I have done it all, driving with my right foot, driving with my left foot and now with my left hand. I am so grateful and appreciative of my ability to drive again. My sister is right, driving is a wonderful feeling of freedom. As times goes on I know I will become more proficent at driving with a hand control. Until that proficency arrives, I hope I don't drive other drivers crazy with my driving and vice versa.


  1. Hi Glenn,

    Sorry to comment on a slightly old post, but I'm having a bear of a time trying to navigate the bureaucracy in Illinois - in order to figure out what's required for a updated driver's license and/or road test (in IL) with hand controls. Even my Doctor/Driving Eval/Adaptive Equipment team have been little help (how weird!). Calls to the SoS office were essentially useless.

    BTW: I am a licensed driver, but have an SCI, thus the need for new hand controls.

    Your blog post was one of the few that mentioned a specific number of training sessions and a procedure. I would appreciate it if you could elaborate on this just a bit. It would really help. I want to do the right things, not only in terms of skills, but mostly in terms of the law.

    Thanks for your time!

    (Also, just discovered the blog and it looks like you have a nice body of work here. Well done.)


  2. This is so inspiring! You never gave up on the idea of driving just because you lost both of your legs. I hope too that you’d never bump into a reckless driver or any careless pedestrian. Always have a safe trip!


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