The risks of driving a power wheel chair or scooter are similar to operating any other transport devices. Cautious speed and an awareness of one’s surroundings are important safety factors for the driver and those around them.
During a mobility evaluation, doctors assess a patient’s cognitive and physical abilities to control a scooter or power chair. If a patient is blind or suffers from hearing loss, a doctor will not prescribe them the device. Insurance companies require this evaluation prior to coverage to guarantee both that the patient medically needs the device and their ability to use it. Among other things, whether the patient can independently complete activities of daily living in the home and how far they can walk determine medical need.
Many folks acquire power chairs or scooters without a doctor’s evaluation or insurance coverage via charities, friends, or purchasing them used. Patients who acquire power mobility devices need to take the time to consider how to safely operate their scooter or power chair. These devices are intended for in the home use, meaning they are designed to maneuver in smaller spaces and function at slower speeds. A stable home environment for use of power mobility devices provides for the safe transfer in and out of them and limits the risk of bodily harm to others. However, people do not stay locked in their homes forever and neither do their power mobility devices.
Though a scooter is capable of quickly turning at speeds as fast as 6 mph, the likelihood of tipping over is high. Because of a scooter’s slim, longer length and the seat’s high center of gravity, turns should not be taken as quickly as whims would prefer. When a power mobility device is taken outside, this tip-over risk is heightened due to uneven terrain. The wheels on scooters and power chairs are not intended to hop curbs or drive on non-paved surfaces. For the lasting life of the power mobility device and the safety of the user, off-roading is discouraged. Out of the home and on the road, basic traffic laws still apply to those on power mobility devices. A scooter or power chair user must be wary of vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians by looking both ways before crossing roadways, maintaining a lane of travel, and yielding to pedestrians.
Many of these issues are both common sense and addressed by doctors in the mobility evaluation process. However, folks who fail to operate their device safely put both themselves and their community at risk. The continued health and care of those around us must also extend to safely using scooters and power chairs outside of the home. If a friend or loved one is acting without care, do not hesitate to consult with their doctor and be sure that they understand how to safely operate their power mobility device.
Here are a few tips for scooter safety!
- Do not carry passengers.
- Do not exceed inclines over 8 degrees (14% grade).
- Do not turn on steep inclines.
- Do not turn suddenly at high speeds.
- Do not get on or off the scooter/electric wheelchair unless the brake is on and the scooter/wheelchair has been switched off.
- Do not switch off the scooter/electric wheelchair while the scooter/electric wheelchair is moving.
- Do not attempt to drive over curbs greater than 2-3 inches (5 cm.) in height. Doing so could cause your scooter/electric wheelchair to turn over, causing injury or damage to the scooter/electric wheelchair. For curbs less than 2 inches, always approach them at an angle of 90 degrees and at a low speed.
- Do not drink or use a mobile phone when driving your scooter/electric wheelchair.
- Do not exceed the user weight limit. Doing so, could invalidate the warranty.
- Always keep your feet on the scooter/electric wheelchair when moving.
- Consult your doctor if there is any doubt about your ability to use a scooter/electric wheelchair safely.
- Always slow down and proceed carefully when traveling over rough or uneven ground.
- For individuals with balance problems, practice getting on the scooter/electric wheelchair with assistance of a qualified healthcare professional.
- If equipped, DO NOT operate the scooter/electric wheelchair without anti-tip wheels installed.
- Do not use an escalator to move a scooter/electric wheelchair between floors. Serious injury could occur.
- Do not drive the scooter/electric wheelchair on an incline that has an oil, water or ice film on it. Do not try to lift the scooter/electric wheelchair by its seat, tiller, rear chassis cover, or any removable parts. Any of these could cause injury to the user or damage to the scooter/electric wheelchair.
- Before sitting in or exiting the scooter/electric wheelchair, REMOVE the key from the ignition. This will insure the POWER is off and the scooter/electric wheelchair cannot move under its own power.
- As a general precaution, always remove the key from the ignition while the scooter/electric wheelchair is not in use. This will prevent use by untrained and unauthorized persons.
- Do not connect any medical device to the scooter/electric wheelchair battery. This could cause failure of the device, the scooter/electric wheelchair….and personal injury.
- Make sure the tiller is properly adjusted to the user or damage and injury could result.
- The Brevard Medical Equipment does not recommend that scooter/electric wheelchair users be transported in a vehicle WHILE they are in the scooter/electric wheelchair…and will not be responsible for any injury or damage that might result.
- Do not use the scooter/electric wheelchair in the rain, near a shower or in a damp bathroom. Direct exposure to rain or dampness could cause the scooter/electric wheelchair to electrically malfunction and prematurely rust.
- EMI (Electromagnetic Interference), such as citizens band radios, radio or TV stations can affect any electrically powered scooter/electric wheelchair.
- Do not operate CB radios, portable phones or cellular phones near the scooter/electric wheelchair while the power is turned on.
- Report any unintended scooter/electric wheelchair movement or brake release to your scooter/electric wheelchair that could possibly have been caused by EMI.