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Playing it Safe When Operating an Electric Wheelchair or Mobility Device

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California Motor Vehicle Code 21281.5 allows personal mobility devices to be used on public sidewalks, on park trails and in bike lanes. Each year there are far too many fatal accidents involving powered wheelchairs and cars. Nearly all of these accidents are avoidable by using a little common understanding and taking extra safety precautions.

The majority of electric wheelchair accidents occur when the operator of the wheelchair or scooter does not follow basic rules of the road. You should always remain on the sidewalks or inside marked bike lanes when riding your mobility device. Riding your power chair or scooter on the roadways is not permitted. When you are in your wheelchair, you are moving much slower than traffic and you are shorter than many cars and trucks. This makes you extremely difficult to see for the unobservant driver.

Do not cross the street in your wheelchair unless you are at a crosswalk. Sometimes you may have to travel a few extra minutes out of your way to find a crosswalk, but a few minutes is a small price to pay to save your life and the lives of others.

If there are no sidewalks in your neighborhood and you are forced to ride in the streets, you should be diligent in protecting your safety. Ride as close to the right side curb as possible and make sure you can be seen. Drivers will not be expecting wheelchairs to be in the roads, and if you are not visible from a distance, the driver may not have the proper time to stop once — and if — he or she sees you.

Many wheelchair operators place bright colored flags on the backs of their rides. This makes you visible and lifts your height by a few feet. You may also want to place reflective stickers on the rear and sides of the chair.

If you must ride after dark, near dawn or near dusk, reflectors and some kind of added lighting for your powered scooter or wheelchair is a necessity. This is the only way drivers will be able to see you after dark. While not required by law, these extra precautions will make you more visible to drivers and possibly save your life.

If you have been injured in an accident involving and electric wheelchair, you may have rights under the law. Whether you were the operator of the mobility device, a pedestrian, or the driver of an automobile, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer such as those at Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys to discuss your legal options. Learn more about traffic laws at California Motor Vehicle Code.

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  • Chris L. Brandsberg

    You have no idea how bad sidewalks and curb cut are accross this country. The United States Access Board – An independent Federal Agency that developes accessibility guidlines under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal laws, their recomendation is, “Where sidewalks with proper curb cuts and cross slopes are provided, which are in compliance with 39 CFR 1191, Appendix A, Chapter 14, as published June 20, 1994, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to move along and upon the adjacent roadway.” However; Please note that their are no federal laws written in regards to sidewalks, only curb cuts and routes of travel within a complex. e.g. housing, outdoor mall, etc.

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