The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a rule to expand mobility for people with disabilities that would allow two new modifications for adaptive equipment.
The first proposed change would allow rental car companies to temporarily disable a driver’s knee bolster air bag to install hand controls to assist people with disabilities requiring 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 forces and create a serious risk to the safety of the driver.
The second proposed 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.
“This rule will make it easier for individuals with disabilities to achieve greater mobility and freedom in their lives,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
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 a 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.
“Safe and accessible transportation is vital for people with disabilities. This rule will enable them to rent a wider range of cars and make it easier to transport their wheelchairs and scooters, which will improve their quality of life,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said.