Q&A - Driving With an Arm in a Sling

Q&A ImageI recently had shoulder surgery and am in a sling for 7 weeks. I want to know if it is considered illegal to drive one armed?

One Armed Drivers

I'm sure that there are many legal one armed drivers in BC. I seem to remember the driver using what is termed a "suicide knob" which was a knob attached to the steering wheel rim that allowed him to grasp the rotating knob and push or pull the steering wheel as required.

image of suicide knob attached to steering wheel

BC does have medical guidelines for drivers who have lost the ability to use an upper limb. They are still eligible for a driver's licence but must prove their ability to compensate and use appropriate vehicle modifications.

Must Be In Control

The essential requirement is that you must be able to maintain control of your vehicle:

Requirements for moving vehicle

195 (1) A person must not cause a vehicle to move on a highway if

(a) the control of the driver over the driving mechanism of the vehicle, or

(b) the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle is obstructed.

If not, then driving without reasonable consideration for others or the specific violation that you might commit due to being unable to steer properly would apply.


You would not be exempt from signalling and I can see that being difficult to do with an arm in a sling. I would also expect that your vehicle is not modified to help you cope with this. If you can't signal safely, you can't drive.

Doctor's Advice on Sling

What does your doctor say about driving with your arm in a sling? That is probably good advice to pay attention to.

image with question about driving with arm in a sling

If you are able to do what is necessary safely and are confident that you will not have an issue, then proceed with caution.

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Just wondering if any new information has come up regarding using these clamp on knobs?  Even more important now as I have one clamped to my steering wheel for use when I am plowing snow.  (One hand is on the steering knob, the other is operating the blade remote.  Which brings up another question.  Would the remote control for the blade be considered a hand held electronic device in respect to the distracted driving laws?  While not actually used while driving on the highway, it is in my hand when I exit a driveway pushing snow.  If the officer were to "catch" me with it in my hand while I was plowing, would I be susceptible to a fine?)

In reply to by paul (not verified)

Over the years, I have frequently worked with drivers who have incurred a disability, assisting them (often in conjunction with an Occupational Therapist) both in determining what device(s) they might require, and training them in the use of these.

Often enough, I've heard it said that suicide knobs are illegal, same as I've heard it's illegal to drive in bare feet, or without a shirt on.  But I've yet to come across the legislation where this is stated, and don't believe there is any, under BC Provincial Law or even at a Federal level.

Some things are worth keeping in mind - for instance, the term 'suicide knob' which is surely based on the fact that if you don't have a seatbelt on and you drive into something (i.e. the car ahead, a brick wall, like that) then it's more than likely you'll end up impaled on it.

I think that typically, improvements to devices are made at the manufacturing level; many of them are made in the USA, a somewhat litigious society.  So on the one hand, while it's desirable to have specialized controls that are quickly installed or removed (to accommodate both 'regular' drivers and 'assisted' drivers using the same vehicle), it's important that the controls be as safe as possible.  Thus, the knobs that they used to make that were attached to a spring-loaded bar-clamp that fit diametrically across the steering wheel are no longer appropriate.  Airbags, you see.  Similarly, a left-foot gas pedal will have a guard over it that doesn't permit application of the regular gas pedal by your right foot, which isn't how they used to be made, either.

As to the definition of a hand-held electronic device, well we would have to hope that logic would apply, surely?  If you can't interact with it (no screen, no sound, no keyboard etc) I can't imagine any police officer trying to charge you with an offense just because you're operating a snow plough.  Heck, referring once again to specialized devices for drivers needing assistance, the most deluxe hand controls these days will have a steering knob for the left hand, while the right hand operates a lever on the right side of the seat; forward for acceleration, backward for braking, with buttons on top for windshield wipers, turn signals, and horn.  I don't think the cops are going to try and bring charges against a paraplegic person for using one of these, eh?

If you would like an independent opinion from some folks who have been in the mobility business for decades now, talk to Shoppers HomeHealthCare, this is what they do.  Every darn thing to do with mobility, they got it or can supply it and install it.  If steering knobs really are illegal, then they will know about it, they've been selling them for years.  Oh, and another company who specialize in the particular area of automotive aids?  Sure Grip, who are on the east coast.  Keith Howell is an excellent guy, and will happy to help if he can I'm sure.