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 – and start the New Year off right.

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. Visit this website resource for more info on WC19-compliant wheelchairs.

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.

This mobility safety update has been brought to you by NMEDA – the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. Need some information on how to make your vehicle wheelchair accessible or upgraded with the latest and most convenient features? Contact a NMEDA dealer in your local area. Your local NMEDA member is a mobility equipment and accessibility expert!

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