The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed two changes which could improve mobility options for people with disabilities.
The first proposal is aimed at rental car companies and would allow them to temporarily disable a driver’s knee bolster air bag. This would be done to enable the installation of hand controls to assist people who need them to drive.
The proposal could result in rental car companies offering more vehicles for people with disabilities. The NHTSA also noted the change would improve safety as “If the knee bolster air bag were to deploy in a crash, the resulting force of the deployment could cause the hand controls to strike the driver with extreme forces and create a serious risk to the safety of the driver.”
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The second proposal is more straightforward as it would allow for the installation of rear-mounted transporters for wheelchairs and power scooters. While these transporters could block the view of backup cameras, the government noted the change would “improve mobility for drivers and passengers with disabilities.”
Both proposals are designed to improve mobility options by creating “specific exemptions” as Federal law generally prohibits companies from disabling safety features that allow a vehicle to comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. The public will now have 30 days to comment on the proposed changes, but it’s hard to imagine many people would oppose the changes.
In a statement, NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said “Safe and accessible transportation is vital for people with disabilities. This rule will enable them to rent a wider range of cars and make it easier to transport their wheelchairs and scooters, which will improve their quality of life.”