Motor wheelchairs need rules of road

Tennessee needs to establish some rules of the road for people using motorized wheelchairs on public streets.

As it stands, the lack of commonly accepted rules creates rising danger as the population ages and the number of these “mobility devices” mushrooms.

Few statistics are available, but The Tennessean in Nashville reported three Middle Tennessee chair users killed since July in collisions with motor vehicles at night.

A Michigan study of 107 accidents found that half occurred at dusk, dawn or night. Only 6 percent involved manual wheelchairs. Sixty of the accidents resulted in fatalities.

Rules are needed to protect chair users and also to protect motorists.

Generally, the law treats wheelchairs — motorized or not — the same as it does pedestrians. That is, they have a right to use the public street where sidewalks and shoulders are nonexistent or inadequate.

Common wisdom says pedestrians should use the left side of a street, facing oncoming traffic.

Tennessee law doesn’t consider mobility devices to be motor vehicles, but users are required to yield to pedestrians and to have lights and reflective markings at night.

It stands to reason also that the back of motorized chairs using streets should have the large reflective triangle marking a slow-moving vehicle. …

AARP conducts a voluntary training course for older drivers called 55 Alive. Some group like AARP would do a valuable service by creating a training course for motorized chairs that use public streets.

In the meantime, publicizing some basic rules of the road would be a good public service.

-Paris Post-Intelligencer

Posted on Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 11:18 am