There's no doubt that everyone deserves access to the freedom provided by being able to drive a car. Reliable transportation—especially your car—is essential to living an active, productive life.
This may be especially true for people living with disabilities that might otherwise restrict their opportunities to interact with the world or limit their access to jobs, doctors, therapies, athletics, and social activities. Cars, vans, and trucks with modifications to accommodate individual disabilities are a lifeline for many people with disabilities, but once they're behind the wheel, they're under the same obligations to obey traffic laws and drive safely as other drivers.
If a disabled driver in a modified vehicle causes an accident, he is liable for any damages he causes—just like any other driver. However, simply having a disability doesn't make a driver more liable in a crash.
How Are Vehicles Modified for Disabilities?
Advocates for people with disabilities recommend they be assessed by a driver rehabilitation specialist before modifying a car to make sure all of their needs are met and that they're able to be in complete control of the vehicle. They should also participate in extensive training before taking the vehicle on the road or transporting passengers.
Some modifications that can be made to accommodate disabilities include:
- Automatic transmission and power steering
- Hand controls for braking and accelerating
- Steering knobs for one-handed control
- Siren detector for the hearing-impaired
- Bioptic telescope attached to prescription eye glasses for drivers with low vision
- Amputee ring on the steering wheel for drivers with prosthetic arms
- Floor-mounted steering for foot control
- Swivel driver’s chair to ease car entry from a wheelchair
- Specialized modifications for a specific disability
Modifications are made to existing cars by after-market suppliers of mobility equipment. There are charitable organizations that provide funding for those who need assistance paying for these expensive modifications.
Restricted Licenses for Disabled Drivers in Missouri
In order to get a driver’s license in Missouri, a person with a disability must take a driving test in a vehicle with the modifications he needs. If he passes, he will be issued a license with restrictions indicating the modifications with which he's required to drive.
Just as a person with impaired vision will have a corrective lenses requirement on his license, a driver who requires modifications may have one or more of the following restrictions:
- Special hand devices
- Extension on foot device
- Accelerator on steering column
- Seat cushion
- Back cushion
- Electrical turn signal
- Leg brace(s)
- Back cushion
- Uncoded restriction
- More than five restrictions
If a person with one of these restrictions is caught driving without the accommodation, he can be ticketed and risk losing his license.
Liability in a Car Accident
It doesn't matter if the driver found to be at fault in a car crash is driving with accommodations for a disability. Disabled or restricted drivers have the same responsibility to conduct themselves in a safe, non-negligent manner as any other driver. Having a disability isn't an acceptable defense to breaking a traffic law.
However, if fault is in question, and a driver with disabilities is found to be in violation of the restrictions on his license, he could shoulder more of the blame. For example, if a driver is required to drive with extensions on his foot pedals and they are found to be missing following a crash, he could be determined to be at fault.
At the same time, simply having a disability doesn't automatically make a disabled driver liable for a crash. If the driver has met the requirements of his license and didn't drive in a negligent manner, he cannot be blamed for a crash that wasn't his fault.
Call Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys With Questions
Whether you're a disabled driver who is being unfairly blamed for a crash or you are the victim of a crash caused by a driver with vehicle accommodations who's denying responsibility, our car accident attorneys have the experience and knowledge of the law to protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to learn more.