An increasing number of individuals are turning to power wheel chairs or scooters for greater independence and quality of life. These machines may offer chair-bound people, or people with limited mobility the freedom to move from one location to another without needing to wait for someone to help and without the sore muscles and hands that often accompany manual wheel chair use. However, just like driving a car or any other motorized vehicle, there are some basic safety rules that need to be followed to keep yourself and those around you safe.
1. Follow the manufacturer’s directions
A scooter or power wheelchair can be heavy and cumbersome, making it prone to tip in certain circumstances. They can weigh anywhere from 150 to 450lbs. Be sure to keep your hands, arms, feet and legs within the perimeter of the chair at all times. This will help to keep the chair steady. Don’t place heavy loads on your scooter or chair to prevent tipping.
2. Watch out for uneven surfaces
If you ride outside and want to get on a sidewalk, look for curb cuts or a driveway to do so. Never try to maneuver over a curb unless your chair is specifically designed to scale curbs and steps. While on a sidewalk, uneven surfaces could cause your scooter or chair to tip. You should also avoid riding your electric wheelchair while it is raining. This could cause it to behave erratically and traction can be an issue.
3. Follow the rules of the road
While using your power wheelchair, be sure to follow basic traffic rules in busy places. Drive on the right side of the hallway or pathway. Look both ways at an intersection of hallways to be sure no one is coming. Announce yourself at closed doors or blind corners to avoid collisions with others. Refrain from using your power wheelchair if you feel your vision or spatial awareness is impaired in any way. Some people, including those with motor skills problems, may not be able to use a scooter or power wheelchair safely. Safety is dependent on the alertness and quick reaction of the driver to recognize dangerous situations.
4. Talk to your therapist
More specifically, talk to your physical or occupational therapist 😊 They can help you identify any problem areas and suggest what you would need to do in order to become a more safe and mobile driver!
5. Customize your ride
Today's power wheelchairs and scooters come in a variety shapes and sizes. They offer a large amount of adjustments, and come with individualized features to allow the power wheelchair to meet the needs of the user. Because of these variations and the number of options available, choosing the right wheelchair or scooter will require a clear understanding of what the user's needs are as well as an understanding of how the various options can benefit the user. An individualized assessment by a professional physical or occupational therapist familiar with the person’s mobility and medical history can ensure increased safety and ease of use.
And lastly, remember, the best defense against an accident is simply to use common sense. If it does not sound like a good idea, then it probably isn’t.
Be sure to keep calm and drive safely!