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Guest blog: Is a hand-controlled car right for you?

christian hand control car.jpgIn our latest guest blog, MSer Christian Rolfe talks about his new hand-controlled car and tells us what to expect from the assessment.

I've been on the Motability scheme some years now and in April 2018 I was driving an automatic with a hoist for our scooters. Normally when my licence expires I get a letter which I send back and a new licence arrives for 3 years, but this time I received a letter requesting I made an appointment for a medical to determine my fitness to drive.

The appointment was 10-15 minutes or so and I didn't get off my scooter nor was I examined. I was asked a few questions to measure my cognition. After the "physio" I was given 5 years on my licence instead of the normal 3. 

Having already gone from a manual to an automatic 3 years ago because my left foot and leg was giving up, now my right leg was feeling icy cold and a bit painful. This started last summer in the boiling heat.

Having had 4 or 5 near misses, my partner and I went on a cruise to New York and back. On the drive home from Southampton, the M20 was shut and the Satnav took me to another road that it didn't recognise. I was forced to go down a very narrow country lane and I crashed the car. I was going too fast and my right foot was unable to control my speed and would not respond to hit the brake.

I decided to contact Motability to ask about hand controls. They gave me a number of a place that does driving assessments. I was worried about the assessment but it was totally fine. I was given the sort of examination a neurologist would and then I drove their car. The type of hand control I have and was assessed on was a ball on the steering wheel for steering with your left hand and a push-pull lever for acceleration and braking operated by my right – you pull towards you to accelerate and push away to brake.

The assessment is as straightforward as can be although my very good looking but not equally functioning legs did want to get involved. I was taken out for around 20 minutes when they told me I was suitable. I received the report in the post a few days later. I think it said "world’s greatest driver" but I could be wrong…

After the assessment Motability will pay for you to have up to 6 lessons with the hand controls but it's up to you. Anyone thinking about hand controls needs to do it. There really is nothing to worry about!

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You can email our helpline team with any questions you may have about Motability or driving with MS.