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  • ASHLAND HIGH SCHOOL

    Driving change

    Born with one leg, AHS student Alex Frol fought the DMV to rethink the rules on prosthetics
  • Like any teenager, Ashland High School student Alex Frol was looking forward to the freedom that would come from being able to drive.
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  • Like any teenager, Ashland High School student Alex Frol was looking forward to the freedom that would come from being able to drive.
    "I passed the driver's test and the written test. I went up to get my license and I was super excited," she recalled.
    But then Frol noticed a code on her license stating she had to wear her leg prosthesis while driving.
    Born with only a left leg, Frol had passed her driving test using her left leg and without wearing her cumbersome right leg prosthesis. If she had worn the prosthesis in the car, it would have been in the way of her left leg.
    In the worst case scenario, the prosthesis could even wedge under the brake pedal, creating a dangerous driving situation.
    "It's basically a log at the end of your leg that you can't move," Frol said.
    For her high school senior project, Frol took on the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles and won the right for amputees and people born without limbs to choose whether to wear their prosthetics, unless the DMV deems they actually need a prosthetic to drive.
    Winning the change was no easy task.
    Frol went back to the Ashland DMV multiple times, and although the workers there tried to help, they didn't have the authority to alter the regulations at the local level.
    She tapped the knowledge of Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Ben Bloom, who served as her mentor and helped her identify the precise regulations at issue.
    "Alex put a lot of energy into the project and she worked really hard to get the restriction removed from her license, which in her case was unreasonable," Bloom said.
    Frol also called elected representatives in the Oregon Legislature and worked with the state DMV office in Salem.
    Ashland High School Principal Michelle Zundel said Frol is a strong young woman whose fight may have far-reaching impacts.
    "She has created a change in regulations that has affected wounded warriors coming back from war," Zundel said.
    Frol said people who don't need their prosthetics to drive won't have to deal with an extra obstacle to driving. That could benefit everyone from wounded soldiers to people who have lost limbs in accidents to those who cannot afford prosthetics, she said.
    Although prosthetic technology has evolved, wearing the devices can be uncomfortable and cause sores on the end of a limb, she said.
    "Sometimes I've used my prosthetic so much that I've been cut by it," Frol said.
    She has also endured multiple surgeries and had times when bone needed time to heal, rather than be aggravated by her prosthetic.
    Despite the physical challenges she faces, Frol is an active teen and was captain of the Ashland High School Alpine Ski Team this year. She competed in races against skiers with all their limbs.
    She's headed to Westminster College in Utah in the fall, where she will be near the National Ability Center's ski training program in Park City.
    Frol plans to train there for the 2018 Paralympics in South Korea — all while taking biology and pre-med classes in hopes of becoming a trauma surgeon.
    Although dealing with the DMV regulations regarding prosthetics was time-consuming, Frol's mother, Bonnie Frol, said she is proud that her daughter approached the issue in a pragmatic, rational way and was respectful toward the DMV employees.
    "It shows you can stand your ground in a civil manner — but you still stand your ground," Bonnie Frol said.
    Reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.
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