What Do You Think about the DOT’s New Plan to Expand Mobility Options for People with Disabilities?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA), a division of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), has proposed a new rule that is designed to increase mobility for people who have disabilities. The motivation is positive but will there be unexpected negative consequences? Keep reading to get the facts and then decide which side of the issue you fall on.
The First Proposed Change Affects Rental Car Companies
The first change they proposed is to allow rental car accompanies to disable airbags at a driver’s knee in order to install hand controls. This allows people with disabilities who need vehicular hand controls to still rent vehicles safely. As it stands, if this knee bolster airbag is in place and it deploys during a car accident, it could result in the hand control striking the driver with enough force to cause broken bones and other serious risks to the driver.
There is good reason to agree to this proposed rule change, but there is one worry: that the airbags will not be switched back to “on” mode when a person who does not use vehicular hand controls is present. Some have proposed allowing rental companies to have one rental car with this feature, but of course not all rental car companies could justify having one vehicle that is only available to a certain fraction of the population. Likewise, this would reduce the number of rental cars available to people with disabilities.
The Second Proposed Rule Change Involves Rear-Mounted Transporters
The second rule they have proposed would allow for rear-mounted transporters to be installed on vehicles. These are used to transport wheelchairs and power scooters. This is not currently allowed because the transporters block the backup camera, but the argument is that it would greatly improve the ability of drivers and passengers with disabilities to get around.
What the Law Says Now
Federal law currently prohibits any distributor, dealer, motor vehicle repair business, manufacturer, or rental company from knowingly making changes that make inoperative any device or part of a device or element of design that is installed specifically to ensure the vehicle complies with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.
The NHTSA wants to issue these specific exemptions that would hopefully balance safety and the need for mobility. The Deputy Administrator of the NHTSA says that passing these rules would make it safer and more accessible for people with disabilities to rent cars and get around.
If you have been injured in a car accident that has been modified, or not, then we suggest you contact a personal injury attorney to find out what your options are. You can call Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas at 909-982-0707 now for a free legal consultation.