The short answer is yes it absolutely is legal to drive with hand controls.
It is important to note, though, that it’s not as simple as just getting hand controls put in your vehicle.
You will need to make sure of a few things before you can have the convenience of driving your car with only your hands.
What Exactly Are Hand Controls for Driving?
Have you lost the use of your legs, but can still control a vehicle and want to drive? You might have heard of having hand controls installed in your vehicle so you can control the gas and brake functions with your hands instead of your feet
But there is a lot of misinformation out there about exactly whether hand controls are legal and who can use them.
So, before you completely change the functionality of your vehicle and do a major project you should know exactly what you’re getting into and whether you’ll be able to use your vehicle with the hand controls.
Hand controls are a way for drivers who are disabled to still be able to operate a vehicle. The hand controls will not look the same for every person as they are customized to fit a specific person’s abilities.
These systems usually work on one of four basic designs
Push/Pull Hand Controls
With this design, it’s based on the driver pushing the control in to apply the brake and pulling it back out, with constant pressure, to make the vehicle accelerate.
Push/Right Angle Hand Controls
While this design will still use the push function to apply the brake, the control will be positioned horizontally. In order to accelerate, the driver will pull down the control in a 90-degree arch.
The configuration will have the driver twisting the control (usually with some kind of thumb bar for leverage or grip) to make the vehicle accelerate. Like with the other set ups, the driver will push the control in to apply the brakes.
With this set up, the driver will rock back on the control to accelerate the vehicle and still push the control in to slow it down.
The design chosen for you will depend on your individual ability. The control design system will be chosen and designed by a professional to ensure it’s designed properly and you know exactly how to use it.
There are other options for installing hand controls – like steering-wheel-mounted switches and to steering wheel rings that sit inside the steering wheel itself.
These high-tech options are a great way to add even more convenience to the driver who needs a little assistance. The options for upgraded tech options will vary depending on the manufacturer and your driving abilities.
There are almost endless options for customizing your hand controls, and it usually comes down to exactly how much you want to spend on your vehicle to modify it.
The orientation and configuration of the controls will be designed to maximize the driver’s comfort and confidence.
How Do You Go About Getting Hand Controls in Your Vehicle?
Before any modifications can be made to your vehicle, you will likely need an assessment done by a doctor. The doctor will evaluate you to make sure you are otherwise fit to drive and can control a vehicle.
The evaluation may also take into consider if there’s a chance you disability may progress and get worse, to a point where you can’t safely operate a vehicle.
As previously mentioned, the driver who wants to make this change to their vehicle will need to get a referral and assessment from their doctor to start the process.
They will then need to meet with a specialist to determine which kind of hand controls are best for this person based on their abilities.
As long as the driver has passed all of these assessments and it’s determined that this is the right choice to move forward with for the driver then they will need to learn how to work the controls.
There is definitely some training involved before a driver can just use the hand controls out on the road.
In order to start the training, the driver will need to have a valid driver’s license and approval from a doctor to go ahead.
This training can range from 10 hours to 40 hours, depending on which configuration the vehicle is getting and the level of ability of the driver.
Is It Expensive to Put Hand Controls Into a Vehicle?
The answer to this really depends on the ability of the driver and what your budget is to modify your vehicle.
These hand controls will work with almost all modern vehicles. So the good news is that no matter what kind of vehicle you have right now you can probably modify it to work for you with new hand controls.
If you’re looking to get just a basic hand control, the price for modification can be anywhere from $500 – $2,000.
However, if you need more advanced modifications then you could be looking at anywhere up to $100,000 to modify your vehicle to fit your needs.
It’s really important to understand that hand controls should never be installed by a driver. These modifications need to be installed by a professional. A professional will check them for safety and ensure they are functioning properly.
Will Having Hand Controls Affect Your Insurance?
Any modification to your vehicle could potentially affect your insurance, but it really depends on the modifications being done.
Most insurance companies will define a modification as something that affects the way the vehicle functions of operates, so cosmetic changes won’t fall into this category.
In general, modifications that are made to a vehicle to make it more accessible will typically not affect the amount of coverage you have with your insurance company.
Additionally, they may also even be able to be added to your policy so that they could be covered if you were ever in an accident and the modifications were damaged.
For this purpose, it’s important that you keep the receipts for the modifications you’ve made so that your insurance company knows the replacement value.
It is encouraged that you let your insurance company know about any changes you’re making so that they can update your policy and coverage if needed.
Now, these modifications may change your deductible due to them increasing the replacement value of your vehicle going up (to cover these new modifications).
The other option might be that your monthly payment for your insurance might go up a little bit if you don’t want your deductible.
If you have questions about how these modifications may affect your insurance, and what you’ll need to do to make sure your insurance provider will still cover you without issue you can always contact your broker to discuss these changes.
Final Thoughts on Hand Controls in Vehicles
Having hand controls in your vehicle is not illegal. In fact having them can definitely give someone back their independence and ability to drive.
Not having the ability to use your feet to control and operate a vehicle does not mean an individual cannot drive – it just means they need some modifications to help them drive.
In order to get the hand controls installed in your vehicle, you will need an assessment to determine if you are able to drive using the hand controls and exactly what modifications need to be made.
The assessment will be used to determine if you are able to drive and would be able to use the hand controls while out on the road. You will also need to make sure you have a valid driver’s license before you start making the modifications to the vehicle.
The good news is that you probably don’t need to buy a brand new vehicle to make this happen because almost all of the modifications for hand controls can be retrofitted to any modern vehicle.
Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you have to give up your independence or driving – at all. There are so many developments in technology that will give you the ability to get in your vehicle and drive exactly where you want to go.
You can take yourself to appointments without relying on others to drive you or you can take your family out for dinner on a Friday.
If you’re considering modifying your vehicle, you can look for professionals in your area to see who can help and what kind of cost you might be looking at.
You will need to make sure you have the right training so that you can operate the controls of the vehicle and, if you have a spouse, your spouse may need to get some training in case they might need to drive the vehicle (because most times the pedals will be non-functional).
Get your independence back with a modification to your vehicle and adding hand controls in.
If you have questions about your ability to continue driving or anything you need to know about starting the process, it’s important to chat with your doctor and discuss putting hand controls in your vehicle with them.