A closer look at modified vehicles for the disabled

Joe Aduna
Joe Aduna
Mark Kansaki
Mark Kansaki

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Driving becomes second nature when we're in our own car, but we can lose our comfort zone when we get behind the wheel of someone else's vehicle, especially if it's been modified.

Mark Kansaki's van is one of the many modified vehicles on our streets. The door and mechanical ramp were tailor-made for him. The driver's compartment has also been altered. The changes enable Kansaki to drive without using his legs.

"I control the brake and accelerator on my left hand and the steering on my right. It's like any other thing. You're starting off with something new, so you have to practice" said Kansaki.

We don't know if the driver involved in Thursday's accident, Charles Wegener, had any practice, but the SUV he was driving had been modified. It's owner had lost mobility on the right side of his body, so the SUV was set up with a left side accelerator.

The work was done at The Maxi Mobility Center in Kalihi.

"So you would actually be pressing the left side where you are usually pressing the brake now you are using that for your gas" said mechanic Joe Aduna .

Aduna's been has been modifying vehicles to helped the handicapped for 12 years and says he can understand how a mix-up could happen.

"If nobody told you anything and you got into a vehicle, you might not know. You might not know and you can get in and you can see how you can mix it up and actually press the accelerator thinking you are pressing the brake" said Aduna.

Honolulu police say they're still inspecting the SUV involved in the accident, but it's very possible this tragedy was the result of the driver's unfamiliarity with the vehicle's controls.

"There's a lot of things that can go wrong if you don't know what you're doing with these things."

Kansaki says he's been driving modified vehicles for almost 15 years. He said they're getting better all the time and give him freedom to live a more independent lifestyle.

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