I’ve been driving again for about the last three months since the accident. To make driving easier we sold our manual Jeep Wrangler and bought a Toyota Prius, which is an automatic (and gets 45+ MPG!). Because I wasn’t sure of the legal situation with me driving again after the accident I wanted to find out if someone is supposed to sign me off as being safe…this was three months back.
So I started of by asking my plastic surgeon if I was safe to drive, he didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t since I had full mobility in both legs and my left shoulder…but he didn’t know who I had to talk to from a legal standpoint.
Next I spoke to my physical therapist, same thing, didn’t see why I couldn’t drive since by then I pretty much had full flexion back in my left elbow…but she didn’t know who, if anyone, I needed to legally talk to.
Given the litigious nature of people here in the US I really wanted to make sure I was legally safe, so my next stop was my insurance company. I figured if I let them know and they didn’t raise an objection then I would be legal, but that wasn’t to be. I phoned CSAAA and spoke to someone and let them know I had a left below elbow (LBE) amputation, she said she was sorry to hear this but as long as I was safe to drive the insurance company didn’t care, since she didn’t even have anywhere to record this information…so I struck out there.
I then contacted a friend I had meet who had an above elbow amputation to see who he had spoken to, unfortunately he couldn’t remember and said he just started driving again.
So, running out of avenues to pursue I phoned the DMV, I figured they must know what I needed to do. The person I spoke to kindly gave me the number for the local Driver Safety Office in Oakland. At last, progress. So I phoned them, they took my details and said I needed to get my Doctor to complete a medical evaluation. I duely printed this and took it to the business office at Kaiser, where it would take 10 working days for them to process and send back to the DMV.
By this time we’d sold the Jeep and took delivery of our new Prius. Since no one had told me I couldn’t drive and I felt quite safe driving with one hand, I started to drive again, commuting about 80 miles a day into work and back.
After about a month I finally heard back from the DMV, who scheduled a telephone call with me to discuss my case. Two weeks later I was on a very formal (and recorded) call with one of the safety officers. They asked about my condition, said the medical evaluation form sent by my doctor didn’t have enough information and then said they’d send me their determination in a month…OK I thought, I guess I’ll just keep driving and wait to hear…ho, ho, ho!
So now three months on I get a letter from the DMV informing me they have suspended my driving privilege! Why? I hear you ask, because they feel I can’t drive safely with one hand…nope. Rather they don’t have enough information to make that determination. So it took them a month to tell me they needed more info and instead of just requesting more info they have suspended me and I have to now request a hearing…which given their track record could take another month to schedule, during which time I can’t drive.
Don’t you just love these people!
I can’t say I’m surprised – a month back I had a nastygram from the IRS. It took them 18 months to tell me they had detected a problem on my 2004 tax return and by the way, not only did I owe them a ton of back taxes, but also over $1,200 in interest. 18 months – what a racket. Turns out it was just a simple error and I don’t owe them a penny – I hope they agree.
When I came to the USA from the UK it took 12 months to get a proper driving license while they did their check of my resident status. 12 months, what were they doing all that time? Consequently I had to carry may passport for a year because the DMV only gave me a paper temporary version. That was a real pain.
PS. Congratulations on getting the Prius – did you have to have it modified at all or do you just steer with one hand?
Keiron McCammon says
I didn’t get it modified, I find I can drive quite easily with one hand. I can even drive a manual, using my arm to brace the wheel while I change gear, but an automatic is definately more comfortable.
The CA DMV can be interesting to deal with. I’ve just been through the process of getting a new drivers licence from them. They had a two month backlog, during which time I had no licence (they took my old one away) and essentially no form of usable identification at all.
However credit where it’s due. once they got around to looking at my file, they actually processed it without any issues and I got my licence in the post.
I wonder what other information they need to make the determination about your ability to drive.
It seems strange that you are being penalised for wanting to keep things above board. I am sure many people just go back to driving and not tell them what is going on.
I am sure it will work itself out in the end. It just takes time unfortunately.