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The Safety of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs)

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In the UK today, WAVs, or wheelchair accessible vehicles, are really easy to shop for. They come in a range of sizes and are sold at a range of prices. Just as with the wider motoring market, you get your high-end models and your more affordable options. However, one thing that all WAVs have in common, no matter the size or price, is their excellent safety features. In this article, we’re going to look at some of the most important safety features that you’ll find in a WAV.

Ramps and lifts

One of the first things that come to mind when you think of a wheelchair accessible vehicle has to be the special ramps or lifts that are used to get in to and out of the vehicle itself. The most common feature is a ramp and it’ll either be automatic or manual, depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

Ramps are obviously fairly self-explanatory, but the one thing to always consider is that when you park, you need to leave enough space between your vehicle and the one parked behind you or to the side of you. If you don’t you won’t be able to extend the ramp completely, which can be very dangerous. Vehicles with lifts don’t have this concern, but they will cost you a little more in the first place.

Wheelchair tie-down and occupant restraint system (WTORS)

Moving now from the outside to focus on the inside of the vehicle, you’ll always find a WTORS, or wheelchair tie-down and occupant restraint system. Although all up-to-date WAVs have this system in place, not all owners actually make proper use of it. Knowing how to use your WTORS is important for the safety of everyone travelling in the vehicle.

Wheelchair tie-downs

The clue is in the name here as this part of the system is used to quite literally tie down the wheelchair when it is inside the vehicle. Whether you’re doing local shopping or taking a long journey at high speeds on the motorway, it is always critical to secure your wheelchair to stop it from rolling or falling whilst the vehicle is moving.

Typically, your wheelchair tie-downs will be four belts attached to the vehicle and in some cases will be six belts. Though each wheelchair is slightly different, a good general rule here is to start with the front tie-downs and then move towards the back. Always look out for any twists – the belts should always be straight and free of kinks.

Occupant restraint

This is a slightly formal name but it really just means a seatbelt. The difference between the seatbelt you’ll find for a wheelchair user in a WAV, and the run-of-the-mill kind of seatbelt, however, is that this belt usually consists of two parts.

There’s the lap belt component and the diagonal shoulder belt component which usually connect to each other. Remember to always make sure that the belt is tight. If it’s loosened off for the purpose of comfort then it won’t do its job properly in case of an incident on the road. As with the wheelchair tie-downs, always check that there are no tangles or twists before you set off, even if it’s just for a short drive.

Some of the safety features that you find in your WAV, whether you buy or hire, might seem confusing at first or just feel like rather a hassle. However, it’s always crucial to get them right. Be patient in the beginning and stick with it and in no time at all, using them will feel like second nature.

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