Making vehicles fit the drivers

People come in all different shapes and sizes, with near perfect abilities and with limited abilities. How should vehicles be designed to be safer for all? How can common denominator vehicles be modified or adapted to make them safer or “better” for people to drive? Let’s start with the learner driver.

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The technology to limit the speed of vehicles has been around ever since the carburetor was developed. A simple mechanical governor can be placed to prevent the flow of gas going above a preset level. That was then. Today, vehicles come with advanced software systems which can more easily regulate the amount of fuel reaching the engine. The same technology can send performance data to a remote site. Every time the steering wheel turns or the brakes are used, parents or the police can be told. Cameras can be installed to watch the standard of driving in real time. If there’s any breach of the expected standards of behavior, driving privileges can be withdrawn. If necessary, prosecutions can be brought. If society wanted to keep more people safe on the roads, the means are available. Only the will is missing. Indeed, as applied to all drivers, there need never be an unexplained accident with the question of fault in doubt. To find out what happened, all the police have to do is ask the vehicles involved to replay their on-board records. This brings a whole range of political issues to the fore. Should society push individual privacy aside if this means safer roads for everyone?

Similarly, there are a whole range of people with different physical problems to deal with and overcome. If potential drivers have difficulty in moving their legs, a lift can be installed to allow the person to get behind the wheel. Hand controls can adjust the speed and apply the brakes. Only one leg? Well, that’s not a problem:

But suppose you don’t have two hands? Well, that’s no problem either.

There are mechanical and electronic systems available to modify more or less any make and model of vehicle so it can be driven by someone with physical limitations.

This equally applies to people as they age. Because of the way our cities have developed, it’s difficult to get around unless you have your own private transport. Maintaining an independent lifestyle is very important so modifying or adapting vehicles to make them comfortable and safe to drive is essential. The first step is an honest assessment of your current physical abilities. Only then can you see what needs to be done and, equally importantly, how affordable it is. If in doubt, you should talk with your state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. There are also a range of nonprofits that advise people with disabilities and age-related problems. Most manufacturers offer rebates if you’re buying a new car so it’s as well to be aware what programs are available and whether your state waives sales tax on the equipment you need. You may need to get a separate license to drive which reflects your disability.

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Then there are the people who want to adapt the the vehicle’s appearance and performance simply to look cool. Customizing can be an easy job to do at home without any particular skills. Going on to eBay can buy you a neon underglow LED strip and switch. The strip plugs into the cigarette lighter. With a little more skill, you can wire the strip into the speaker circuit. That way the light will pulse in time to the bass line. But for the more serious customizers who want to move beyond a new bumper kit and get into engine modification or mechanical adaptations, the sky is the limit. Don’t forget, the more extreme the custom job, the more important it is to talk with your insurance company and your local licensing authority to ensure the vehicle is safe and legal to be driven on the roads.

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