Q’Straint explains what new WC18 standards mean for wheelchair transportation
With safety as the number one priority in wheelchair transportation, the Rehabilitation Engineering Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) has updated the WC18 standards for wheelchair tie-down and occupant restraint systems (WTORS), which will take effect in December 2015.
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While WC19 was the first industry standard in the U.S. for wheelchair manufacturers to address the design and performance of wheelchairs used as seats in motor vehicles, WC18 governs the systems used to safely secure the wheelchairs within the personal or commercial vehicle.
Currently, WC18 requires that WTORS withstand a sled impact test using a 30 mph/20 g crash pulse, a 187 pound surrogate wheelchair and a 170 pound midsize adult male crash-test dummy where the lap belt is anchored to the vehicle. Since new WC19 standards now require the availability of an optional wheelchair–anchored lap belt to hold the occupant into place, RESNA had to address the higher wheelchair forces that would be transmitted to the tie-down/securement systems when a person riding in a wheelchair is using that optional lap belt. As a result, RESNA developed the new WC18 standard requiring that WTORS must also be able to withstand the increased forces generated in a second impact test, in which the 170 pound crash-test dummy is restrained by a lap belt that is anchored to the surrogate wheelchair rather than to the vehicle itself.
Manufacturers of wheelchair and occupant restraint systems and those responsible for transporting people dependent on wheelchairs need to be planning now for the new safety regulations. One way to ensure compliance with the new WC18 standards by the December 2015 deadline is to consider equipment upgrades to transportation fleets and personal mobility vehicles in advance.
“Transit providers, including those who provide school transportation, paratransit and public-bus services, and family members and caregivers who operate private vehicles need to be aware of these new standards and products that comply with them,” says Dr. Larry Schneider, a research professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. “They should also give serious consideration to purchasing and installing the latest versions of tie-down and restraint equipment as they have improved over the years to become much easier to use, especially for people who are traveling while seated in a WC19 wheelchair with four easily accessible securement points.”
In response to the new WC18 standards, Q’Straint developed the first retractor to meet the requirements, demonstrating an increasing commitment to the safety of travelers seated in wheelchairs. The QRT-360 is the first four-point, heavy duty, fully automatic retractable tie-down system designed, engineered and built to perform successfully in the required 30 mph frontal crash when a wheelchair passenger is traveling in a motor vehicle and is using the optional lap belt as discussed above. It also offers a shortened retractor footprint that allows for more flexibility in vehicle anchor-point locations to better accommodate large wheelchairs. The revolutionary new product is therefore compatible with the widest variety of wheelchairs and is an acceptable solution to wheelchair securement in all types of motor vehicles.
In addition, the self-tensioning strap-type tie-down system automatically tightens the straps during small wheelchair movements that occur during travel to eliminate slack. The belts continue to tighten during low-g vehicle accelerations, thereby further reducing the potential for wheelchair movement in the event of a collision. The webbing used in this system has also been redesigned and is twice as strong as the material used with other wheelchair and occupant restraint systems.
The benefits of the new WC18 standards address not only improved passenger safety, but also offer a more efficient and independent securement process. Just as Q’Straint embraced the new WC18 standards by developing and offering the QRT-360, transit providers, including those who provide school transportation, paratransit and public-bus services, and family members and caregivers who operate private vehicles, should begin their compliance preparations and familiarize themselves with these new standards and the products that abide by them.
For more information on Q’Straint’s QRT-360 retractor and its compliance with WC18, visit www.qstraint.com/qrt-360.