Motor vehicle transportation, whether in private, public, or school-bus
vehicles, is vital in today’s society. Ready access to transportation is not
only essential for most occupations and education, but also for accessing
healthcare providers, religious services, recreation and leisure activities, shopping, voting, and many other community activities and services. As reported
by the National Council on Disability, the need for transportation is even
greater for individuals who use wheelchairs, including those who are unable
to transfer out of their wheelchair when traveling (Bureau of Transportation
Statistics, 2002; National Council on Disability, 2005). 

In situations where
the wheelchair must function as a motor-vehicle seat, serious concerns arise. 
Transportation safety and occupant crash-protection studies have shown that
a motor vehicle seat is an important part of an occupant-protection system. 

For this reason, wheelchairs that are used as motor vehicle seats must also be designed for this purpose. Wheelchairs prescribed for individuals with the inability to transfer
and which will serve as passenger seats in motor
vehicles should: 

  • demonstrate that they can be effectively secured and provide occupant support
    under the same frontal-impact conditions used to test
    occupant-restraint systems and seats in passenger cars,
    and child safety seats used by children; 
  • facilitate the
    proper placement of vehicle-anchored belt restraints;
  • have design features that reduce user error
    in securing the wheelchair by four-point, strap-type
    tiedowns. When seating systems from a second manufacturer are needed, the seating system (i.e., seat, back
    support, and attachment hardware) should also demonstrate the ability to provide effective occupant support
    during frontal crashes and should not interfere with
    proper use of belt restraints. 

Easy-to-understand educational/training
materials for distribution to vehicle modifiers and their clients can now be found here. These materials outline best practices
to be used when installing adaptive equipment for drivers and passengers seated in
wheelchairs when riding in private vehicles, as well as best practices in the proper use of
WTORS.  There are also
 Safety Tip Sheets being
developed for other WTS stakeholder groups, such as wheelchair and WTORS manufacturers,
wheelchair prescribers, clinicians, certified driver trainers, rehabilitation tech suppliers, and
transit providers.   Please feel free to provide feedback regarding these tip sheets!