Wheelchair Safety While Driving or Riding

If you use a wheelchair, you probably know how to get into and out of a car safely. You’ve seen a certified driver rehabilitation specialist and know the rules. But it doesn’t hurt to go over them periodically, and perhaps correct some bad habits we’ve fallen into.

The following guidelines increase safety for wheelchair-seated riders and drivers.

Where to sit

  • If possible, transfer into the vehicle’s seat, which is crash designed for greatest protection.
  • If you can’t, it is safest to have a WCl9-compliant, transit-ready wheelchair. Non-WCl9-compliant wheelchairs are generally not strong enough to withstand the impact forces that can result in a crash.
  • WC19-compliant wheelchairs are designed for use as a motor-vehicle seat and have been crash-tested.

Seat / safety belt

  • Safety belts are the law in almost every state – and that applies to wheelchair users, so position the safety shoulder and lap belt correctly.
  • To prevent a wheelchair-seated driver from hitting vehicle structures (windshield, dashboard, etc.) during a crash, it is important to use a safety belt system composed of a shoulder and lap belt that fit snugly across the pelvis, chest and shoulder – not the wheelchair belt.
  • Wheelchair belts have not been crash-tested and some are designed to break away from the wheelchair when in a crash. Exceptions are WC19-compliant wheelchairs that come with crash-tested safety belts.

Feeling tied down is a good thing

  • Always use a crash-tested securement system to safely anchor the wheelchair using a 4-point tie-down system to keep it stationary – whether you are sitting in the vehicle seat or in the wheelchair.
  • An automatic lock-down system will also work to make the manual tie-down system easier. It connects to a bracket installed on the bottom of the wheelchair, allowing independent wheelchair securement.
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