Wounded veterans of the Iraq war face serious emotional and physical challenges upon returning home. The New York Times recently highlighted the efforts of BMW to make this transition just a little bit easier. The automaker donated instructors, the use of test cars, and time on its Performance Center track to the Injured Marine Semper Fi fund.
On the track in South Carolina, Marines who have lost limbs can learn how to drive using alternate controls in specially outfitted BMW vehicles, like the 2008 650i coupe, for example.
Drivers who have lost both legs can have their vehicles outfitted with a hand control that uses a push-pull system to accelerate and brake: Pull back and the car accelerates forward, push and the car brakes. The handle can be outfitted on either side of the steering wheel and typically costs no more than $1,000, which is less than some of the luxury automaker’s high-end features.
Not only do the BMW lessons serve a practical purpose — training wounded veterans in driving skills — but the Marines at the BMW Performance Center reported that it served an important psychological role as well. As Cpl. Jordan Muck, 24, told the Times, “Getting to go on trips like this helped me cope with anxiety and just talk to people. Something just clicked.”
Back From War, Back at the Wheel (The New York Times)