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Frequently Asked Questions

Steering Control FAQ

What is Hand Control Adaptive Equipment?

Hand control adaptive equipment are products designed to allow the driver to operate the accelerator and brakes controls of their car using their hands when they cannot do so safely using their feet.† Hand control adaptive equipment are mechanical in nature and typically consist of rods or wire linkages attached to the gas and brake pedals on one end.† The rods or wire linkages are attached on the other end to a handle assembly which is mounted to the steering column.† The handle assembly is attached to the vehicle's floor and not to the steering column on floor mounted styles.† The hand control adaptive equipment handle is used to operate the gas and brakes through the rod or wire linkage.† Pushing the hand control adaptive equipment handle forward operates the carís brakes in all styles.† Pulling straight back, pushing downward towards the lap, rocking the handle backward, or twisting the hand control adaptive equipment handle operates the carís accelerator.†Hand control adaptive equipment is installed in vehicles with power brakes, power steering and automatic transmissions.† They are available in different styles of operation.† In the last year, hand control adaptive equipment manufacturers have expanded their offerings to the point that just about all hand control adaptive equipment manufacturers make a version of their hand control adaptive equipment for each style.†

There Are So Many Styles of Hand Control Adaptive Equipment to Choose From, Which is the Best?

There is no one single style of hand control operation that is better than another.† The choice of the style of hand control should be based on the clientís abilities, comfort in using the style of hand controls, ability to operate secondary functions, and price.† Some other factors which might rule out certain styles of hand controls are your size and the driving compartment size.† The ideal way to find out which hand control you like is to test drive with various styles during an on road evaluation.†

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What Should You Do Prior to Getting a Set of Hand Control Adaptive Equipment?

It is an industry best practice that a driver rehabilitation specialist prescribe the style and model of hand control that best meets your needs and vehicle.† The majority of the adaptive equipment installers follow this practice.† NMEDA Guidelines mandates that all members follow this practice.† You must also be properly trained on the hand control adaptive equipment that you will be using.† The style of hand control must meet your abilities to physically operate the control.† Most installers will require all of the following prior to agreeing to install a set hand control adaptive equipment in your vehicle:

  • The vehicle has been inspected and is in good mechanical condition.†††
  • The hand control adaptive equipment is prescribed by a driver rehabilitation specialist, preferably a certified driver rehabilitation specialist.†
  • You have been properly trained with the hand control adaptive equipment so that driving out of the installerís shop isnít the first time youíre actually driving with hand controls.
  • That you have the proper state driving license with any necessary restrictions.† Many states require a license restriction to be placed on a valid driverís license that requires the licensee to only drive in a vehicle with the proper adaptive equipment.†

Vehicle Installation Requirements for Hand Control Adaptive Equipment

Hand controls are only installed in cars with power brakes, power steering and automatic transmission unless otherwise authorized by a certified driver rehabilitation specialist. The vendor should also:

  • Road test the car using both the OEM gas and brake pedals and the hand controls to ensure the hand controls do not interfere with any other driving control system through the full range of motion.†
  • Ensure the hand controls do not interfere with or restrict visibility to any other vehicle equipment such as the headlight switch, steering wheel, etc.
  • Ensure the hand controls do not interfere with a non disabled drivers ability to operate the vehicle using the OEM gas and brake pedals.† The hand controls should never attach directly to the pedals themselves.
  • The gas and brake shall automatically return to the neutral position after the hand controls are released.† Note: brakes especially can be a problem and will drain your battery if the brake light does not turn off.
  • If the knee bolster air bag must be removed in the course of the installation, that it is done so properly and the airbag is properly shunted. If the car has power adjustable gas and brake pedals, the feature is disabled.

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Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards FMVSS Affected by Hand Control Adaptive Equipment

The vehicle modifier should take an exemption in the course of installing hand controls of a vehicle for:
FMVSS 208 - OCCUPANT CRASH PROTECTION - Main point of this exemption is that it permits vehicle modifiers to remove and/or deactivate all airbags for the front row designated seating position modified, provided Type 2 or Type 2A seat belts meeting the requirements of 49 CFR 571.209 and 571.210 are installed at that position.†† Since the exact impact of hand controls in a vehicle crash is such an unknown, the exemption also waives certain occupant crash protection requirements.† †

If I Get a Set of Hand Control Adaptive Equipment Installed, How Will Other People Drive My Car?

It is the non disabled driver who attempts to operate the vehicle using the hand control adaptive equipment that causes the majority of the hand control adaptive equipment related accidents.† Howell Ventures Sure-Grip hand controls use a simple mechanical lock out design to prevent untrained drivers (family members, mechanics, etc.) from attempting to drive the vehicle using the hand controls.† Never allow anyone to drive your vehicle using the set of hand controls unless they are thoroughly trained and licensed to do so.† Even if it's just to do something like backing up the car out of the garage, unfortunately deaths and property damage have occurred when untrained family and friends attempt to use the hand controls to drive the vehicle.††

The hand controls should never interfere with a non disabled personís ability to operate the vehicle using the OEM (vehicleís original) gas and brake pedals.† The hand controls are not removed, they stay in place and must not interfere with the steering wheel operation.† The hand control linkages must also be attached to the gas and brake pedal linkages such that there is no chance a driver's foot will get caught or prevented from moving their foot between the pedals. This is a very important point that you and the DRS will need to check during the installation process.† If pedal guards are installed along with the hand control adaptive equipment, then the non disabled driver must be trained on how to properly remove and reinstall.† Once the pedal guard is removed, the non disabled drive must use the OEM gas/brake to operate the vehicle.† Again, never allow untrained and unlicensed drivers to drive your car using the hand controls.†

When steering column mounted hand controls†are installed, the steering column tilt feature can be locked or prevented from moving through its full range of adjustment.† If moved by a non disabled driver, it's very important the steering column be repositioned to allow the disabled driver to operate the hand controls through full range of motion.†

On cars equipped with OEM powered adjustable gas/brake pedals, the vendor will have to permanently disable the powered pedal mechanism prior to the installation of the hand controls.† Non-disabled drivers will just not have this feature available to them.††

Hand Controls Lockout Feature

Howell Ventures Sure Grip hand controls feature a lockout feature.† A pin can be engaged that prevents operation of the accelerator.† It is intended that the lockout feature will be engaged whenever a non trained hand control user of the car is driving.† Hand control operation of the brakes is always maintained gardless of the position of the lockout feature.† The lockout feature is called AutoLock and comes standard on all hand controls sold by Howell Ventures.† An electronic version is also available from Sure Grip.† The electronic lockout system engages once the car's engine is turned off.† To disengage the lockout system, the car has to be started and a deactivation button pressed. Mobility Products and Design hand controls feature a removable handle for the controls if no in use to prevent accidental use of controls.

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Driver Safety Considerations with Hand Controls

Sometimes the installation of hand controls will require cutting into the driver knee bolster or disabling the driver knee bolster air bag if your vehicle is equipped with one.† A knee bolster is the lower panel on the dash and is designed to prevent submarining of the occupant by holding the person in place and absorbs energy from the seated occupantís knees in the event of a frontal vehicular crash.† You should discuss this safety issue with your hand control installer as there may be ways to prevent disabling this safety feature and it can be vehicle specific.† Although there are no federal laws that govern the manufacture of hand controls, the SAE Society of Automotive Engineers have come up with SAE Standard J1903 Ė Recommended Practice Automotive Adaptive Driver Controls, Manual.† NHTSA published the Hand Control Usage and Safety Assessment in August 2001.† NHTSA found that hand controls minimally effected vehicle safety: there was no head impact risk to drivers from the hand controls, drivers didn't need to sit closer to the steering wheel to use the hand controls and risk airbag injuries, and the hand controls themselves and the modification to the vehicle during installation (mostly adjustments to the knee bolster) minimally affected the driver in the event of a crash.†

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Other Vehicle Adaptive Equipment Usually Installed when Installing Hand Controls

Since the hand controls will be used to operate the vehicle's gas and brake pedals, it is important that the client's feet or other objects cannot accidentally push on the pedals at the same time.† It is common practice to always utilize gas and brake pedals in conjunction with hand controls.† There are many different brands on the market but MPD is the most popular brand.† They have options to fit a standard vehicle, a lowered floor van, and pedal guards if the client needs additional room.† All pedal guards should be easily removable without the use of tools.† This is important because only the properly trained and licensed disabled driver should operate the vehicle using the hand controls.† All other drivers must operate the vehicle using the standard gas and brake pedals.† It is important that family members, aids, and friends who may at times also be driving your vehicle be trained on how to remove/install the pedal guards.†

Another item that is common practice to install in conjunction with hand controls is a spinner knob.† This device attaches to the steering wheel.† Again it is removable without the use of tools to allow the vehicle to be operated by a non disabled driver.† The spinner knob allows the client to operate the steering wheel securely using only one hand.† Some people have a difficult time understanding why this product is needed if they have no disability in the hand being used to operate the steering wheel.† They argue that they can "palm" the steering wheel through turns.† A steering device, although useful in all driving situations, is definitely needed whenever sharp, quick turns are required such as in avoiding a collision.† That is not the time to loose grip of the steering wheel and therefore control of the steering wheel.

Styles of Hand Controls

Push for brakes Ė pull down at right angle for gas hand controls
Brakes are applied by pushing the hand control away from the driver toward the brake pedal.† The gas is applied by a downward movement of the hand control toward the driverís lap and at a right angle to the brake. The original style of hand control.† Lots of people are familiar with them and many shops will install.† Very economic solution.
Manufacturers of these types of hand controls:

  • MPD #3500, MPD #3502 hand control
  • Howell Ventures Sure-Grip hand control
  • Drive-Master Ultra-Lite XL hand control
  • MPD hand control

Push for brakes - rock downward for gas hand controls Brakes are applied by pushing the hand control away from the driver toward the brake pedal.†† The gas is applied by rocking the hand control rearward towards the driver.† Very comfortable operation.
Manufacturers of these types of hand controls:

  • Howell Ventures Sure-Grip hand control
  • MPD #3300 hand control

Twist for gas - push down for brakes hand controls
Brakes are applied by pushing the hand control away from the driver toward the brake pedal.† The gas is applied by twisting the handle like a motorcycle accelerator. These types of hand controls are popular for those who like the operation of a motorcycle style control.
Manufacturers of these types of hand controls:

  • Howell Ventures Sure-Grip hand control

Push for brakes - pull back for gas hand control
Brakes are applied by pushing the hand control away from the driver toward the brake pedal.† The gas is applied by pulling back on the hand control.†††† Manufacturers of these types of hand controls:

  • MPD hand control
  • Howell Ventures Sure-Grip hand control

Push - pull, floor mounted hand controls
Brakes are applied by pushing the hand control away from the driver toward the brake pedal.† The gas is applied by pulling back on the hand control.
These types of hand controls are especially useful for clients with long legs who might find interference with their knees and some of the other hand control styles.† These hand controls are more expensive.† The Menox hand control allows for the operation of the most secondary functions and has a brake latch which allows the brake to be latched in place at a stop (and the hand removed).† This style of hand control allows for operation by either the left or right hand.† Because no part of the hand control is attached to the steering column, these hand controls do not require disabling the knee bolster air bag and do not require adjusting for changes to the steering column tilt.†
††† Manufacturers of these types of hand controls:

  • MPD #3700 hand control with tri-pin grip for full size vans and lowered floor minivans only

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How do I know what type of hand controls I need?

A Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) is trained to evaluate your situation and determine the best equipment for your needs. They will be able to write a prescription for the car hand controls required for you to safely operate your motor vehicle. The CDRS will also provide the proper training on the equipment to make sure you are comfortable being on the road again. SGI Mobility can direct you to the CDRS in your area.

Can someone else drive my vehicle if I install hand controls?

Usually, yes. Most hand controls are designed so that they don't interfere with the regular operation of the vehicle. You or your loved one can alternately drive the vehicle safely and comfortably. Only the most advanced drive-by-wire systems eliminate the ability to operate the vehicle in the standard fashion.

Are there hand controls for my vehicle?

Driving controls are available for most vehicles, including cars, minivans and full-size vans, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, crossover vehicles and wagons. However, the type you need may not be available for ALL vehicles. Talk with SGI Mobility before making any vehicle purchase to find out what works best for you.

I had a stroke. Can hand controls help me?

Yes. Many stroke victims have regained their independence with the help of driving controls. Adapting the hand controls for the side of the body unaffected by the stroke is possible. A Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) can evaluate you to determine which controls you need in order to drive safely.

What if I want to change vehicles?

Many hand controls can be transferred from vehicle to vehicle with the correct mounting kit. The only exception is the drive-by-wire systems.

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