When it comes to choosing and buying powered wheelchairs, there are a lot of things to consider. Will it improve my daily life and allow me to travel outdoors? Is the seat suitable for long journeys? What wheelchair accessories are available for the chair? Going from manual to powered wheelchairs can seem daunting, but it needn’t be. Once you have chosen your particular electric wheelchair and have done your research on the practicalities – such as storage, batteries and the like – you only need consider the rules for driving on the pavement or even the roads. And, before you feel more overwhelmed; there’s not much to remember. Above all, you can experience more independence than ever before with powered wheelchairs.
On the road
Firstly, you do not need any form of license to drive powered wheelchairs. However, you may have to register it – particularly if it matches the criteria for mobility electric wheelchairs that can go on the road. In simple terms, the government classes manual and powered wheelchairs in two categories:
- ‘Class 2 invalid carriage’
- ‘Class 3 invalid carriage’
The ‘class 2 invalid carriage’ is not suitable for the road, but class 3 is. To determine whether your powerchair is identified as ‘class 3’, it must have these features:
- The unladen weight of your chair – without carrying you – must reach 150kg
- The maximum width of the electric wheelchair is 0.85 metres
- The device can limit its speed to 4 mph, but the wheelchair can reach up to 8 mph
- The powered wheelchair boasts an efficient and responsive braking system that has undergone rigorous testing
- Front, rear lights and reflectors are installed on the powerchair
- An audible horn for the powerchair to alert others to its presence
- A rear view mirror
There are other features that must be installed on powered wheelchairs, and you can find those here.
It’s important to note that you can drive on the road in a class 3 carriage, but the maximum speed for doing so is 8 mph. You cannot drive in any bus or cycle lanes, or on the motorways. You must also follow the Highway Code for wheelchair travel on the road.
As mentioned above, only class 3 vehicles require registration, as you will be travelling on the road. All you have to do it is contact the DVLA who will issue you with a ‘nil duty’ tax disc. Basically, this means you are not required to pay road tax. You must display this tax disc at all times for wheelchair travel on the road.
On the pavement
Most wheelchair users will opt to drive on the pavement to avoid any potential issues on the road, also reducing anxiety for new wheelchair users. All mobility electric wheelchairs can travel on any footpaths or pavements, but you musn’t exceed the speed of 4 mph. Similarly, parking restrictions also apply to powered wheelchairs, and you must not park in an area that obstructs the path to other pedestrians. Essentially, you don’t have anything to worry about and can experience greater freedom in your chair.
Most suitable powerchairs for outdoors
We have touched on the most suitable chairs for outdoor use, and it’s important to do your research before purchasing your powered wheelchair. For instance, discuss your requirements and daily life with the supplier, who will be able to point you in the right direction regarding the chair, as well as the accessories and necessary customisable features.
However, for those who are planning to travel outdoors regularly in powered wheelchairs, we suggest looking into rear wheel drive powered wheelchairs. These types of powerchair boast a wheel positioning at the rear, which provides better security and support for the user. Likewise, they also boast a wider turning radius, which is better suited to the outdoors.
You can read more information on the best powered wheelchairs for outdoor wheelchair travel here. We do recommend you also ensure that your chair is properly charged before leaving, and hasn’t been left to run down. Also, when you do arrive home, if possible, to clean any muck out of the wheels which could potentially hinder any driving in the future.
Insurance is vital for those with powered wheelchairs. While you may keep your chair safe, the environment and other external factors can hinder your attempts. For instance, everyday obstacles such as uneven pavements, potholes, cyclists, pedestrians and even driveways can prove dangerous for your powerchair. Taking insurance out for your mobility electric wheelchair can provide you with the peace of mind should your chair’s safety rest out of your hands.
For those that are driving their powered wheelchair on the road, we also strongly recommend you look into insurance. If any incidents occur and someone is hurt due to your powerchair, the insurance will ensure you do not suffer financially. You can get independent insurance advice via a number of websites, as well as your supplier who may be able to recommend companies.
Ultimately, your powered wheelchair is an extension of yourself, and must be treated as such. Keep it safe and you will experience greater independence.