As an individual who uses a wheelchair, you know that many non-wheelchair bound people assume that you are limited by your chair. You may or may not be, but either way you’ve adapted and found a way to get from place to place; you may be one of the many wheelchair bound individuals that drives yourself everywhere.
If you are an independent driver, your vehicle has already been adapted to suit your needs so you can drive comfortably, but is your vehicle safe enough to protect you in the event of a car accident? Safe driving practices are crucial for everyone on the road and all drivers of all ages and abilities need to know how to stay safe.
Is Your Vehicle Safe?
Even if your vehicle has already been made over with adaptive equipment, it’s always important to have regularly scheduled maintenance. It may even be mandatory for compliance with terms of your warranty. Just like any vehicle, a car that has had adaptations should have regular “check ups”. If your adaptive equipment stops working properly, it’s vital for your safety (and the safety of others) to have it checked out immediately.
Has Your Ability to Drive Changed?
Over time, everyone’s ability to drive may change, wheelchair bound or not. For instance, some individuals suffer from memory loss or have extreme vision changes. In these particular instances, continuing to drive may not be the safest idea.
Pay attention to your driving abilities. How are your adaptations working? If they become difficult to use, it’s important to talk with a driver rehabilitation specialist, the person who helped you adapt your vehicle in the first place. For example, if your muscle strength, coordination, or judgement has changed (even just a little) you may not be as safe as you think. The driver rehabilitation specialist will re-evaluate your needs and decide if other adaptations are needed. Whatever you do, don’t delay or ignore any changes in your ability.
Understand and Follow the Rules of the Road
If you have a modified vehicle, you have a special license plate and a placard that hangs on your rear view window. Don’t assume that any drivers will navigate the road any differently around you. Many drivers are distracted, in a rush, and rarely pay close attention to fellow motorists. That said, it’s extremely important that you drive defensively and follow all the traffic laws based upon where you live.
Additionally, never text and drive or engage in any other distractions. Do not operate your vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and don’t attempt to drive if you are tired or don’t feel like you can safely navigate through traffic or use your adaptive equipment.
Being an independent driver, when you are wheelchair bound, can be very empowering, but may also be very dangerous if you fail to follow the rules or make sure that your vehicle is safe and easy to operate based upon your needs. Double check that your vehicle is roadworthy before you get ready to roll.