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Wheelchair Safety Tips for Riding in an Accessible Van

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wheelchair accessible van handicap driver modified upfitted vehicle
Photo: janeannv via CC

An accessible van or SUV makes it easy for you to roll up in your wheelchair and hit the road, whether you’re the driver or a passenger. But staying in your wheelchair while you’re riding poses a handful of potential dangers. Follow these wheelchair safety tips to ensure you’re riding properly in your modified vehicle.

Wheelchair Van Basics: Tips for new van owners

Always wear your seat belt

Even if you’re belted into a wheelchair and the wheelchair is secured to the floor, you must secure yourself with a vehicle-installed seat belt across your chest and pelvis. Ensure that the belt is adjusted to properly and safely restrain your body.

Always use a four-point tie-down system

This is a must if you’re riding in a wheelchair. Anything less could result in the chair becoming dislodged during an accident. If possible, this anchoring system should be automatic so you don’t have to worry about a manual locking system failing due to human error.

Always use a WC-19-compliant wheelchair

These models are specially engineered and tested to function as transit seating. They use a crash-tested securing system and support your body during a collision — which non-WC-19-compliant chairs cannot.

Choosing the Right Model: Which vehicles can be modified to be wheelchair-accessible?

Always remove and stow loose components

Any equipment or accessories connected to your chair that aren’t necessary for you to ride in the van should be detached and stored so they don’t dislodge and injure anyone. The fewer loose items in the van, the better.

Always have someone double-check

A quick inspection of all restraints by another person can help prevent oversights that would lead to a tragic injury or accident.

Ideally, you should transfer to an actual vehicle seat instead of remaining in your wheelchair. It’s more secure and supportive if you’re involved in a crash. So if you’re able, please make an effort to transfer to the OEM seat.