Tool helps cabby drive with left foot

Taxi driver Hong Yong Ming uses a left-foot accelerator to operate the car. He lost control over movements on the right side of his body after a stroke six years ago.
Taxi driver Hong Yong Ming uses a left-foot accelerator to operate the car. He lost control over movements on the right side of his body after a stroke six years ago.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

With his hale and hearty appearance, most people who meet taxi driver Hong Yong Ming would not suspect that he suffered a stroke six years ago, which caused him to lose control over movements on the right side of his body.

While he recovered about a year later and could walk without an aid, he still had numbness in his right leg and hand.

Mr Hong, who worked in the construction industry, wanted to be able to drive again, and was referred to Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Driving Assessment and Rehabilitation Programme (Darp), where he was put through a driving assessment.

"Because of a sensory deficit, I didn't have the fine feeling of how much I was pressing on the accelerator or brake pedal. It was very jerky," Mr Hong, 50, said.

It was recommended that he use a left-foot accelerator.

This is an extension gadget which allows him to mechanically control the accelerator pedal, by introducing a second pedal for the left leg. The device also blocks the car's accelerator pedal on the right.

Mr Hong went through about 10 lessons with the Handicaps Welfare Association, before he was put through a test with an occupational therapist and a driving instructor.

"During the practice sessions, it initially felt awkward.

"But after three to four times, it got better and, after that, I never thought of using my right foot any more," he said.

 

Earlier this year, Mr Hong got his taxi driver's vocational licence and decided to leave the construction industry to become a cabby.

Cab operator Premier accepted his application after doing the necessary checks with the Land Transport Authority and getting a driving assessment report from Darp, he said.

Mr Hong paid about $780 in total to buy and install the removable left-foot accelerator in his taxi.

The device can be easily removed, so his relief driver can drive with the normal accelerator.

"Most of my passengers don't even know the difference," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Tool helps cabby drive with left foot'. Print Edition | Subscribe