Power Supported Controls
Reduced-effort or zero-effort steering and braking, manufactured by Drive-Master, allow vehicle operation with little or no resistance. Electric, pneumatic or hydraulic hand controls help you or your loved one operate the vehicle with little effort and limited movement. Drive-by-wire systems, which use computer-aided driving systems, control most functions of the vehicle and can include joystick-style driving controls.
The Prevalence and Safety of Hand Controls for Cars
Car hand controls allow people in wheelchairs to operate a motor vehicle. Maybe you’re considering using this technology. Or perhaps you want to help a loved one acquire and use car hand controls. If so, you’re probably wondering how many people use hand controls for cars and whether they’re safe.
The University of Virginia’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering set out to answer these questions. In 2001, they performed a study sponsored by the US Department of Transportation.
Prevalence of Hand Controls for Cars
There are no official national numbers reflecting how many people use hand controls for cars. So researchers contacted state DMVs. The nature and amount of relevant data compiled by states varied. There was also a detrimental lack of unified terminology and systems of classification. The researchers did their best to lump data under inclusive categories and determine averages.
They estimated that almost 90,000 drivers at least use a hand control device to replace a vehicle’s gas and brake pedals. They also compiled data for numerous specific types of adaptive hand controls and prosthetic uses while driving. For a full accounting of these findings, view the report at the link above.
Safety of Hand Controls for Cars
One safety concern has been whether use of hand controls for cars requires closer proximity to the steering wheel. This may increase the risk of injury from air bag deployments. The researchers could not determine definitively whether this safety concern ever has practical implications.
Researchers subjected various adaptive hand controls for cars to rigorous vibrations and extensive cycles of simulated acceleration and braking. The devices all held up to the tests. This assuages concerns about the quality, durability and reliability of hand controls on the market.
The study also determined that hand controls do not pose increased risk of head injury in the event of a frontal collision. It also reports that hand controls pose nominal increased risk of knee or leg injuries during a frontal collision.
Overall, the researchers found adaptive hand controls to be safe and reliable. They do not meaningfully increase the chances of an accident. Their presence does not notably increase the risk of major injury if a frontal collision occurs, either. These driving aids provide a great opportunity to maintain independence and quality of life for many people in wheelchairs.