General Question

john65pennington's avatar

Should motorized wheelchairs be outlawed on the public streets?

Asked by john65pennington (29080 points ) July 8th, 2010

More and more people are utilizing motorized wheelchairs than ever before. i answered one accident involving one. the operator of the wheelchair was traveling down the center of the road, ran a stop sign and was struck by an automobile. granted, motorized wheelchairs are not bound by traffic laws, but who would ever think we would need such laws? was this an isolated incident or do you have a story to tell?

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58 Answers

UScitizen's avatar

The accident you describe is sad. However, it would a serious over reaction to ban such important mobility devices. It would be tantamount to sentencing the disabled person to prison in their own homes.

Coloma's avatar

I think that as long as the operating parties are following safety precautions and traffic laws they absolutely should not be banned.

Poor disabled folks, they have a right to be as independent as their disabilities allow.

I’d venture that there are more pedestrian violationsthan motorized wheelchair violations.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Here the motorized wheelchairs are bound by traffic laws. The way the laws are written here, any motorized vehicle must conform to DMV standards to be operated on a street or road. This includes the proper lights and license.

dpworkin's avatar

There are people who would be immobilized without them. Don’t you think a ban would be draconian? Or don’t you care?

MrItty's avatar

They should be forced to follow the same rules as pedestrians. In the case you cited, the person should have been given a citation for jaywalking.

john65pennington's avatar

dpworkin, my question was not of a concern, but rather their safety. i care. my mother is in a wheelchair and i understand this firsthand.

john65pennington's avatar

Coloma, are you absolutely sure that motorized vehicle are also governed by your traffic laws? this law only applies in most states, to vehicles that are required to be registered with the state. i am not aware that motorized wheelchairs fit this category, since they do not require a license plate.

Coloma's avatar

@john65pennington

I don’t know about the laws on the books..just meant that like pedestrians, or bicyclists following the basic rules of the sidewalks, crosswalks or bike lanes.

Obviously wheelchairs have no place in actual traffic. lol

chyna's avatar

There is a guy in my neighborhood that has one. He drives all over town in it and at any time during the day, you can find him stopped at a corner, near bushes, just about anywhere napping. He drives haphazardly also. I worry about his safety.

john65pennington's avatar

chyna, this is a classic example and why i asked the question. thanks.

grogg's avatar

Only if we are to ban “handicapped” people.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I should expand my previous answer, if the motorized wheelchair does not have all the things it needs to be considered a vehicle, then it has to follow the pedestrian laws.

gorillapaws's avatar

I think requiring them to observe reasonable precautions might be appropriate, since they do have the potential to really harm someone (not to mention the battery they contain can be very hazardous if cracked open). I certainly would not advocate ban on them though; as others have said, a chair is like their legs.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am certainly not opposed to them, I think they are great, but just like everything else, not everyone who operates one has sense or consideration for others. More than once, I have been run off the footpath (sidewalk) or jammed up against the shelves in the supermarket by folks who are going like a bat out of hell. I have seen numerous close calls with cars when they go down the street where there is no footpath.

I think for their own safety as well as the safety of folks in cars and other pedestrians, there should be some sort of regulations regarding their usage.

@john65pennington – bet you didn’t think you would be attacked for asking this one!

Jabe73's avatar

The only time I ever see them on the streets is when they are riding on the crosswalks, I didn’t know this happened. They probally shouldn’t be on the streets themselves except to use the crosswalks, they should only travel on the sidewalks.

john65pennington's avatar

rooeytoo, i was not planning on being attacked. safety was my first thought for people in wheelchairs. i am for them 100%. another problem that needs addressing are the people on motorized wheelchairs. some are taking tranquilizers and some are drinking alcohol. their numbers are increasing and this could present another safety problem.

I have my shield up and ready, rooeytoo.

gorillapaws's avatar

@john65pennington can they get a DUI for drinking and driving their chair? (I know you can get one for drinking and riding a bike for example, but a chair is a bit different since it’s necessary)

WestRiverrat's avatar

@gorillapaws It is possible here to get a DUI on a chair, highly unlikely but possible.

john65pennington's avatar

gorillapaws, you cannot arrest a person for riding on a lawnmower for a dui. since, the lawnmower is not required to be registered with the state, the lawnmower is not considered a vehicle. the driver can only be arrested for public intoxication. dui laws do not pertain to motorized wheelchairs or riding lawnmowers.

SuperMouse's avatar

Driving down the middle of public streets in lanes meant for autos? Absolutely. For the safety of wheelchair user, drivers, and pedestrians, users of motorized wheelchairs should be subject to the same rules of the road as a pedestrian or bike rider. It is ludicrous for someone utilizing a motorized wheelchair to be riding down the middle of the road. While we have no right to discriminate against the disabled, no one – able bodied or disabled – has the right to put other members of the public in danger with their foolishness.

I type this knowing full well that my fiance will not be able to push his chair forever. I write this knowing full well that sometime in the future he will certainly be utilizing a power chair. I am also fully aware of the fact that if he chooses to take that wheelchair into traffic unsafely, I will be the first to tell him what a bonehead move he is making. But to be fair, he is a pretty bright guy and I am fairly certain that he will use it safely.

gorillapaws's avatar

@john65pennington Thanks for the info. I guess people getting DUI’s on bicycles must be an urban legend or something.

john65pennington's avatar

Supermouse, can i have you on my team? right now, i need a little backup. i am with you and your thoughts on motorized wheelchairs. your fiance is fortunate to have a person like you, looking out after him.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@gorillapaws I think it depends on the individual state, and how they write their DUI laws.

john65pennington's avatar

gorillapaws, i honestly have never heard of a person being arrested for a dui, while riding on a bicycle. are you sure he was not just arrested for public intoxication?

A bicycle is not required to be registered and therefore does not require a license plate. this is the only law a bicycle rider does not have to follow. all other traffic laws pertain to bicycles, like stop signs and turn signals. how about speeding on a bike. ever heard of that? it would be difficult to clock a person riding a bicycle, in lasar radar. i never heard of this before, either.

YARNLADY's avatar

In California, any motorized vehicle on the public streets must be “street compliant” regarding tires, lights, and registration. That includes wheel chairs (which are allowed on the sidewalks) and motorbikes. Even Golf Carts are subject to certain regulations, such as not allowed on any road that has a posted speed limit of 40 or over.

SuperMouse's avatar

@john65pennington I am right there with you on this and I’ll back you up anytime. The disabled can be just as jerky and ignorant as able bodied people. A disability is no reason to ignore a person’s stupidity.

Also, I once got a ticket for running a stop sign on my bike, I wasn’t drunk at the time, but I’ll bet if he thought I was I would have been tested and nailed. FYI that was in California.

gorillapaws's avatar

@john65pennington I just found this article which says in some states it’s apparently possible to get a DUI on a bicycle or (get this) even on a horse!

john65pennington's avatar

Yarnlady, are riding lawnmowers required to be registered in your state? if so, thats a new one on me. also, wheelchairs on the sidewalk, is that also considered street compliant? i realize each state has its own laws and thats another reason i asked this question. thanks.

Coloma's avatar

You can get DUI’s on horses too. lol

john65pennington's avatar

gorillapaws, i read that article. my money, on a charge like that, would be on the horse rider of bicyclist to win in court. this is so unheard of in court, that the officer might be laughed at. i would never arrest anyone for a dui on a horse, a bicycle or another other mode of transportation, that did not require to registered as a motor vehicle as described by law. thanks for the info.

john65pennington's avatar

Supermouse, thanks. i feel a little more confident now.

gorillapaws's avatar

@john65pennington I agree, it seems ridiculous. In a way, by charging people like that with a DUI it cheapens the charge for the people who actually deserve it. Getting a DUI should be considered very shameful, not something comical—as would be the case if you got one for riding a horse.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@gorillapaws it sounds comical, but when you have a drunk try to ride a horse home down the wrong side of the interstate, it can have deadly consequences. It has happened here.

I responded to 2 guys that hit a horse in their 67 Charger once. The horse landed in the back seat and kicked the crap out of both guys in the front seat.

The passenger walked a mile and a half to get help, and he was the one with the broken neck. The driver wasn’t so lucky.

gemiwing's avatar

Perhaps this wouldn’t be a problem if sidewalks were taken care of correctly, wide enough, free of odd ridges a scooter can’t cross. lights timed long enough so people have a chance to cross safely, suburbs with real sidewalks that weren’t just decorative and ramps at every corner.

YARNLADY's avatar

@john65pennington Ride on Lawnmowers on private property are not regulated, except for emissions, but if one were to ride it on a public street, it would be subject to some regulations. I don’t believe registration is required. I tried looking it up, but there are too many different places listed.

john65pennington's avatar

Gemiwing. i agree. in my city, if a disabled person in a wheelchair requests it, the city will make sidewalk connections to accomodate that person. i know all cities are not this way. my city accepts government funding, so they have no choice but to comply.

john65pennington's avatar

Yarnlady, thank you. i am sure the laws are the same, concerning a riding lawnmower. they were meant to cut grass, not haul someones rear to the store for a beer.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

These vehicles need to be subject to rules and regulations of operation. Banning then from public streets would be unfair and an overreaction. The goal is not to keep the disabled in their homes and off the street and sidewalks..

tranquilsea's avatar

My sister depends on a scooter to get around. She has a head injury that messed with her short term memory, her speech and her balance. I catch her riding her scooter on the road all the time. I pull over and tell her to get her ass on the sidewalk but she has this belief that the lines on the sidewalk contribute to her insanely bad headaches (which are remnants from the car accident). The problem with her is that she forgets whatever I’ve said 5 minutes later. She would end up with tickets up the ying yang if they ever started ticketing her for it.

SuperMouse's avatar

@tranquilsea do you think the tickets would eventually deter her from riding in the streets?

Keysha's avatar

@tranquilsea better tickets up the yin-yang than a dead sister, or severely injured due to her uncaring attitude about others.

eden2eve's avatar

@gorillapaws “I certainly would not advocate ban on them though; as others have said, a chair is like their legs.”

I agree that the chair is like their legs. Would you advocate that a pedestrian walk (with their legs) down the center of the street in the middle of traffic? Pedestrians belong on the sidewalk. So do wheelchairs. That is not denying them a right to mobility at all, any more than the same rule regarding a person who is on foot. There are road sides, sidewalks and crosswalks provided for the mobility of slower moving people, and it would be very surprising if any state laws allowed for such just walking (or rolling) down the middle of public streets. That’s just common sense.

breathe's avatar

Well as unpopular as this is going to be, I would advocate a ban on them “in the street”. They can’t keep up with traffic and there are way too many possibilities of someone killing them or themselves. There is no reason why they can’t keep them on the sidewalk, or even in the bike lanes, but not in the street. I wouldn’t want my mother or father or family member riding in the middle of the street. It is more dangerous than a motorcycle, at least a motorcycle can keep up with traffic.

tranquilsea's avatar

@SuperMouse The problem is that she would never remember getting the ticket. All her financial stuff is handled by the Public Trustee.

@Keysha It is not that she doesn’t care about others. She suffers from massive headaches in addition to everything else that happened in her car accident. And don’t get me wrong every time I see her on the road I tell her to get her butt back on the sidewalk because I know how dangerous it is. She doesn’t remember 5 minutes later that is how impaired her short term memory is. There is only so much I can do.

gorillapaws's avatar

@eden2eve In general these things belong on the sidewalk. As others have pointed out though, in some places the sidewalks are so poorly maintained, or have insufficient access for wheelchairs at crosswalks, such that it may be the case it’s not really possible for them to get where they need to go via the sidewalks. In these instances riding along the edge of the road might be acceptable, but it’s a tough call.

tranquilsea's avatar

And I should say that she’s never in the middle of the street, she’s off to the side where bikes ride.

Keysha's avatar

The problem with allowing them in bike lanes is that 1) they are wider than a bicycle with a rider. 2) they are slower than a bicycle so bicycles would have to go around them. And 3) they are lower than a bicycle, so would be harder for a motor vehicle to see.

They also do not have mirrors or reflectors, so should not be allowed off the sidewalk.

I think, personally, there should be licensing for anything you ride on streets or sidewalks. We had/have, in our city, a licensing requirement for bicycles in the city limits. It is NEVER enforced, but is still on the books. I had one in high school, and remember getting a license. I had to show reflectors on pedals, wheels, and front and rear frame. I had to show a mirror, and a light. I got a sticker, renewable every 4 years, showing I was licensed. It went on the frame, under the seat.

If you ride a lawn tractor on the streets here, you have to have an orange triangle on the back. Just like you do if you drive a buggy.

No reason motorized wheelchairs cannot be regulated. But they should not be banned.

jca's avatar

i think motorized wheelchairs should be used on sidewalks only. if a car hit someone riding in one, the person in the wheelchair would be on the losing end.

Andreas's avatar

@tranquilsea You’re in a difficult situation. Keep going.

Idiots can be able-bodied or disabled. An idiot is an idiot.

SuperMouse's avatar

@tranquilsea since you mentioned that she is living with a TBI, I kind of thought so. Cases such as your sister’s are incredibly challenging. She of course deserves something to enhance her mobility and provide a means of getting around, but she is a danger to herself and others.

john65pennington's avatar

Another question: do people in motorized wheechairs carry a cellphone with them? and, are some even capable of making a cellphone call, if their chair breaks down? some people in motorized wheelchairs have other disabilities, other than their legs. some are only able to control the handle switches on their wheelchair and not operate a cellphone.

chyna's avatar

@john65pennington I wondered that also. What if the battery runs out? How do they handle that?

tranquilsea's avatar

My sister has a cell phone. When she first moved in with us after my mom died I made sure to get her one. She was constantly getting lost in the community (we live in a quiet community). She also had this erroneous belief that she shouldn’t plug in her scooter because the battery would blow up. She ran out of battery power several times in those months. We would to out and find her and push her back. I finally put together a 5×7 note that read, “PLUG in your scooter it will not explode”. I laminated it and put it on her scooter.

It is no fun pushing a 300 lb scooter blocks home.

gorillapaws's avatar

@john65pennington I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they were making motorized scooters designed for severely disabled people with built-in gps and a help button that uses cellphone technology to call for assistance. If they don’t exist yet, I’m sure they will.

SuperMouse's avatar

@gorillapaws that is a great idea. I can only imagine the havoc that would ensue if an individual utilizing a motorized wheelchair ran out of battery or had some other such breakdown while riding in the street the way @tranquilsea describes her sister does.

jca's avatar

i think the problem with a motorized wheelchair in the street is that if someone is sitting in a wheelchair, their head is low down, not that easy to see from the vantage of a driver in a car. a bicyle rider’s head is higher up, so a driver of a car could see the bike rider pretty easily. if you’re right alongside someone sitting in a wheelchair, you may not see them and change lanes right into their path or something. i am all for people having mobility, but i think they’re safer on the sidewalk.

chyna's avatar

@jca The one I have seen around town has a pole with an orange flag attached about 3 feet above the guys head. It helps to see him as he is going up and down the hilly roads here.

Cammy's avatar

Motorized wheelchairs need to always stay on sidewalks and cross at crosswalks…..Do as any pedestrian does. Any other way is just NUTS!

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