NHTSA Logo - This page is 508 compliant Image of Persons With Disabilities
Automotive Safety Issues for Persons with Disabilities

NHTSA is the federal government agency with the authority to regulate the manufacture of automotive adaptive equipment and modified vehicles used by persons with disabilities.
More information on Notices and Final Rules relating to this topic may be found at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/rulings/Index_disabilities.html


Resource Information:

 Accessibility and Section 508 Compliance

 DOT Accessibility Resource Center

Consumer Information:

Adapting Motor Vehicles for People With Disabilities Brochure

 Adapting Motor Vehicles for People With Disabilities (Brochure) (posted 4/1/02)
Also available in (PDF)
A Proven Process for Gaining Freedom on the Road. The introduction of new technology continues to broaden opportunities for people with disabilities to drive vehicles with adaptive devices. Taking advantage of these opportunities, however, can be time consuming and, sometimes, frustrating.

 Airbag On/Off Switches or Deactivation
If the only modification needed to accommodate a vehicle user is to install an air bag on/off switch of deactivate a frontal air bag, then follow the instructions at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/airbags/

 Transporting Students With Special Needs
The Traffic Safety Digest lists school bus programs that have been administered across the nation. Learn about project characteristics, state and size of jurisdiction and targeted populations. This link, the Fall 1997 issue, highlights a program in Iowa for transporting students with special needs.

Regulations and Standards:

 Notice of proposed rulemaking: Retro Fit On-Off Switches for Air Bags; Vehicle Modifications To Accommodate People With Disabilities (posted 09/21/04)

 Denial of petitions for reconsideration (posted 06/10/02)
The notice denies petitions for reconsideration of the final rule establishing a limited exemption from the statutory make inoperative prohibition to facilitate the modification of motor vehicles for use by persons with disabilities. The notice was published in the Federal Register June 4.

 Final Rule: Exemption From the Make Inoperative Prohibition

 FAQ's on the Make Inoperative Exemptions (posted 07/31/03)

* Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
[Docket No. NHTSA-98-4332], RIN 2127-AG40

 Final Rule: Platform Lift (posted 01/24/03)
FMVSS 571.403 - Platform Lift Systems for Accessible Motor Vehicles
FMVSS 571.404 - Platform Lift Installations on Motor Vehicles

 Final Regulatory Evaluation and Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Platform Lift Systems for Motor Vehicles (posted 01/24/03)
FMVSS 571.403 - Platform Lift Systems for Accessible Motor Vehicles
FMVSS 571.404 - Platform Lift Installations on Motor Vehicles
Lady in Wheelchair with Child
 Search Adapted Vehicle Modifier Identification Database
Certain motor vehicle repair businesses make significant modifications to vehicles specifically to accommodate persons with disabilities. Businesses that do so generally need to assure that the vehicle continues to comply with the FMVSS except under specified circumstances identified in 49 CFR Part 595, Exemption From the Make Inoperative Prohibition. Modifiers that use these exemptions must affix a label to each affected vehicle stating that it may no longer comply with all FMVSS, and must identify themselves to NHTSA. This database contains selected information submitted by those businesses to us. NHTSA does not approve motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment items, nor does the agency endorse any commercial products or vendors.

 Would you like to report a problem with adaptive equipment or vehicle modification to the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation? The form that you will fill out is called a Vehicle Owners Questionnaire.

Click here to go to Vehicle Owner's Questionnaire.
If you encounter a problem or question while trying to complete the online VOQ, call the DOT Auto Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TDD 1-800-424-9153) and our staff will take your complaint over the telephone.

 List of Society of Automotive Engineers documents pertaining to adaptive equipment

Research Reports:

 Transportation Availability and Use Study for Persons with Disabilities, 2002 (Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

 Hand Control Safety Assessment Report
Five mechanical hand controls and two portable hand controls were subjected to vibration and environmental testing (SAE J1903 test procedure) and sled testing to judge performance in a 30 mph frontal crash. Report also contains a review of information from states the number of drivers with license restrictions related to adaptive driving equipment

 Performance Testing for FMVSS 135 - Passenger Car Brake Systems
Standard FMVSS 135 testing done on a sedan equipped with 5 different mechanical hand controls

 Air Bag Interaction with and Injury Potential from Common Steering Control Devices, Phase I
Report # DOT HS 808 580, is available from the National Technical Information Service at 703-487-4650. Ask for publication PB 97 167233/LL. Cost $47 + shipping and handling.

 Air Bag Interaction with and Injury Potential from Common Steering Control Devices, Phase II
Abstract of the Final Report, March 1998
Report available from Gayle Dalrymple, 202-366-5559

 Literature Review of the Status of Research on the Transportation and Mobility Needs of Older Women
The Department of Preventive Medicine of the University of Iowa College of Medicine was contracted to prepare a document addressing the research needs for maintaining the safe mobility of older women in the United States, with an emphasis of automobile driving as well as other modes of transportation. This activity was funded by a grant from the National Safety Council.

Research Notes:

 Common Vehicle Modifications for Persons with Disabilities - posted 10/22/2002
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asked BTS to summarize information from a Louisiana Tech University Survey of Mobility Equipment Dealers concerning vehicle modifications for persons with disabilities. The survey was conducted in the summer of 2000, and asked respondents (2,100 mobility equipment dealers in the United States) to provide information for a one-year period (June 1, 1999 through May 31, 2000). Responses were received from 101 dealers within 35 states.
 Safety Issues for Vehicles Adapted for Use by Persons with Disabilities (PDF - 12k bytes)
 Estimating the Number of Vehicles Adapted for Use by Persons with Disabilities, December 1997 PDF version (11.6k)
NHTSA is interested in estimating the size of the population of vehicles adapted specifically for transporting persons with disabilities, as it is not presently known how many vehicles have such adaptations. NHTSA is also interested in the safety of vehicles with adaptive equipment.
 Wheelchair Users Injuries and Deaths Associated with Motor Vehicle Related Incidents, September 1997 (PDF)
Summary: The NEISS data on injuries to wheelchair users within a motor vehicle were examined to develop national estimates of the numbers of injuries and deaths caused by improper lift malfunction or improper wheelchair securement.