NHTSA Proposes Rule to Expand Mobility for People with Disabilities

by Gwen Newell

Improves access to rental cars and simplifies transportation of wheelchairs and power scooters

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed a rule to expand mobility for people with disabilities. This rule would allow two new modifications for adaptive equipment, which will make it easier for individuals with disabilities to achieve greater mobility and freedom in their lives.

The first change would allow rental car companies to temporarily disable a driver’s knee bolster air bag to install hand controls. These controls would assist people with disabilities who require vehicular hand controls to rent vehicles safely. If the knee bolster air bag were to deploy in a crash, the resulting force of the deployment could cause the hand controls to strike the driver with extreme force and create a serious risk to the safety of the driver.

The second change would permit installation of rear-mounted transporters for wheelchairs and power scooters. These transporters could block the backup camera’s view but would improve mobility for drivers and passengers with disabilities. It’s critical for people with disabilities to have safe and accessible transportation and this proposed rule would enable them to rent a wider range of cars and make it easier to transport their wheelchairs and scooters, which could  improve their quality of life.

Federal law generally prohibits a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, rental company, or motor vehicle repair business from knowingly making inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle in compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. By issuing specific exemptions that balance mobility and safety, NHTSA allows motor vehicle dealers and repair businesses to improve the mobility of drivers and passengers with disabilities.

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