SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — They are grabbing the wheel and retaking control of their lives, embracing new technology and a newfound freedom.
With high-tech equipment and high hopes, local disabled people are learning how to drive and regaining their independence.
Luke Eckenberg is on a mission to find something he lost four years ago—his independence. But getting there isn’t a simple journey after his snowboarding accident.
“I lost the use of my legs from about the upper thigh down,” he said.
The 20-year-old from Truckee isn’t staying down on himself, or his situation, or his desire to move forward in his quest for freedom. Instead Luke has grabbed the wheel and control of his future.
He found one of the only driving schools in Northern California offering a driver’s training course specifically designed for disabled people.
John Penfold is Luke’s instructor, and he hears about freedom often.
“That’s the first words that come out of their mouth,” he said.
The next words are typically “How soon can I start?”
For students without the use of their legs, it’s all about the hand controls. You might think their reaction time wouldn’t be as good.
“Not even close,” Penfold said. You’ve got to remember with the hand controls, their hand’s already on the brake and their hand’s already on the gas. They don’t have to lift their foot to go from one pedal to the other; it’s already there.”
Luke can attest to the fact it takes finesse and touch.
“Just cause there’s less motion you have to do with the hand control, so as you pull back it accelerates a bit more,” he said.
It’s a learning process that’s keeping John and Bond Driving School extra busy this year, averaging 50 to 75 clients a year. That client base isn’t just people in wheelchairs, but also stroke survivors who have lost muscle control.
“We have left foot gas pedals we can install..we have steering nobs we can put on the left or right side,” he said.
All to custom fit needs of drivers like Luke, whose unexpected journey has taken a positive path.
“Once I get my car set up with the controls and a little system to get my chair in the back..I’m all set to drive and really go wherever,” he said.