Driving with a Prosthetic Leg

Many people wonder if it’s possible, driving with a prosthetic leg after undergoing an amputation. Limb loss (amputation) affects the ability to control a vehicle. Depending on upper or lower limb amputation, it can affect usage of the steering wheel, controls or pedals, or even your stability in the vehicle. You must be assessed for the level of impact, which will determine the conditions on your license, any vehicle modifications, or additional training with a rehabilitation driving instructor to enable you to drive. Below is some general information to get you started on the journey to get back on the road.

Can you Drive with a Prosthetic Leg?

man driving with a prosthetic leg

Steps to take:

It is a legal requirement that you notify the transport authority in your state or territory of any change in medical condition or surgery that affects your driving, including an amputation where you find yourself driving with a prosthetic leg.

The driver licensing authority in each state and territory has slight variations in its policies and standards. The standards apply to private, commercial, light, and heavy vehicles and motorbikes and you may need to complete multiple driving tests.

To be able to drive a vehicle you must complete a variation of the following steps based on your state/territory:

Make an appointment with your doctor/GP
  • They will need to provide a complete medical record.
  • Fill in any forms from your state/territory authority.
  • You may need additional medical reports from specialists.
Complete off-road assessment
  • Including asking you about your driving and medical history, testing your knowledge of the road rules, and assessing visual, sensory, and thinking abilities.
Complete occupational therapy driving assessment
  • Health professionals such as an accredited occupational therapist assess a patient’s medical fitness to drive to advise the driver licensing authorities about how the patient’s health and medical conditions might affect their driving ability.

(AFTD Guidelines have basic standards for each states process).

User Ability & Car Modifications

Depending on the user’s ability, you can drive a car with the original pedals if you have had a lower limb amputation.

  • You will need to learn how to manoeuvre your limb differently and this may also be dependent on the sensation in your limb for feedback.
  • As you can no longer move your ankle joint you will rely on feedback from your residual limb and proprioception (the feeling of where your limb is in space).

Features of your prosthesis are also important:

  • You should speak to your prosthetist about wanting to drive as they may need to consider this in the componentry used for the prescription of your prosthetic limb.
  • Adaptive equipment can also be installed in many vehicles.
  • Hand-operated brake and accelerator, automatic transmission and height-adjustable seats, etc.
  • Modifications enable many drivers with impairments to operate vehicles safely.
  • Power steering makes driving much easier for upper limb amputees.

License Conditions When Driving with a Prosthetic Leg

You may have a license condition that states you must wear your assistive device, only drive a specific vehicle or you can only drive an automatic vehicle.

Please contact your local state or territory for further information, alternatively, you can contact your state’s amputee association for guidance.

 

Written by:

Darrel Sparke, President of Amputees NSW.

APC would like to thank Darrel Sparke, for collaboration in writing this resource article.

Content created and adapted from:

 

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Prosthetic Legs

Individuals with lower limb amputation or limb difference, may use a prosthetic leg to mobilise.

Prosthetic legs come in a wide range of designs, depending on individual circumstances, such as amputation level, residual limb length and size, skin integrity, activity level, body weight, wants, needs and many more.

Prosthetic leg by itself

If an individual is missing part of their lower limb or has a lower limb difference, they may benefit from a this prosthetic. Common amputation/limb difference levels include, but are not limited to, below-knee, above-knee, knee disarticulation, ankle disarticulation, partial foot, hip disarticulation and Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD).

Pictured above is a PFFD socket

Prosthetic legs are generally made up of a socket, which is custom made to the individual’s residual limb, prosthetic components (such as a prosthetic knee and/or prosthetic foot) and connective components, that join the socket and components together. A mould or plaster cast is taken of the individual’s limb, which is then modified, to achieve this custom socket shape.

Man with one prosthetic leg walkingfree standing prosthetic

Osseointegration Surgery

For amputees who have undergone Osseointegration surgery, their prosthetic legs do not incorporate a socket, as their prostheses are “bone anchored”. This means their prosthetic components directly connect to a metal rod which has been surgically inserted into their bone.

This particular prosthesis can be designed to serve multiple purposes, depending on the individual’s wants, needs and abilities. It is common for most people to have an ‘everyday’ prosthetic leg and a ‘waterproof’ prosthetic leg. For those who partake in specific sports or recreational activities, they may also have an additional leg. For example, a running leg with running blade, or a prosthetic leg specifically designed for snow skiing. We are happy to work with you to figure out what type will be best suited to your needs.

Click on the link for more information about Osseointegration 

Prosthetic Leg Wear

It is up to an individual how much or how little they wear their prosthetic leg. However, it is always recommended to remove your prosthetic leg overnight when sleeping. Some users may only use their prosthetic legs for short amounts of time during the day, say for transferring purposes, and may choose to spend the rest of their time in a wheelchair as their main mode of mobility. Others may put their prosthetic leg on in the morning and not take it off until they go to bed at night.

Many users require prosthetic socks to maintain the fit and comfort of their prosthetic leg. Sock use is completely dependent on individual circumstances. Many amputees find their stump volume fluctuates during the day and they must accommodate these fluctuations by adjusting their prosthetic socks to suit. We can provide you with a range of different socks so you can always keep your prosthetic leg fitting well and comfortable.

Prosthetic legs can come in a wide range of colours or designs. Many people choose a fabric or design that they like, which we then incorporate into the final lamination of the socket. Others prefer their prosthetic leg to look as cosmetic as possible, with a colour suited to their skin tone and foam cover shaped to look like their other limb covering their underlying prosthetic components. There are also companies that make 3D printed prosthetic covers that can be fitted to your prosthetic leg.

Click here to find out more about cosmesis for your prosthetic leg

For more information check out our other resource pages, FAQ’s below or contact the team today through our enquiry form.

Prosthetic Leg FAQ’s

How do prosthetics work?

There are many different types of prostheses that all work in different ways, depending on their intended purpose. Most lower & upper limb prostheses incorporate a socket, which is customised to suit the individual’s residual limb, that is then connected to prosthetic components, such as a prosthetic foot, knee joint or terminal device.

What are most prosthetic limbs made of?

Prosthetic legs and other limbs are made up of different parts, which in turn are made up of different materials. Prosthetic sockets are commonly made using fibreglass or carbon fibre. Most prosthetic feet are made of carbon fibre. Titanium, aluminium and steel are common materials that connective prosthetic components are also made up of.

What does it feel like to have a prosthetic leg?

We manufacture our prostheses to try and make them as lightweight, tight fitting and comfortable as possible. As prostheses are unique and customised to each individual, each amputee would likely have different sensations and experiences of what using their prosthesis feels like.

How strong are prosthetic legs?

We ensure that your prosthesis is rated to your body weight and select components that are suited to your weight, activity and impact level.

 

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