Navigating Wheelchair Safety: Survival Tips for Crossing Streets

For individuals who rely on wheelchairs, navigating city streets and intersections can present unique challenges. Safety is a paramount concern, as pedestrians with mobility impairments are more vulnerable to accidents. Why? For the simple reason that wheelchair pedestrians are lower to the ground than walking pedestrians and therefore not in the line of site for drivers. We will outline the essential tips for wheelchair users to safely cross streets and improve their visibility to motorists.

Choose Where To Cross Carefully

Whenever possible, opt for intersections with traffic lights and pedestrian signals. These controlled crossings provide a structured environment for crossing safely. Traffic lights offer clear indications for when it's safe to cross, reducing the risk of accidents. If traffic lights are not available, use a painted crossing, like the one shown in the photo above.

Wait for All Vehicles to Stop Moving

Exercise patience and wait until all vehicles have come to a complete stop before venturing onto the street. Be cautious of drivers who might not immediately notice you or those who are distracted, texting, etc. 

Establish Eye Contact with Drivers

Before crossing, make eye contact with drivers whenever possible. This simple gesture helps ensure that drivers acknowledge your presence and intent to cross. If a driver makes eye contact with you, they are more likely to yield the right-of-way.

Beware of Large Vehicles

Large vehicles like trucks and SUVs can pose greater risks due to limited visibility. Take extra precautions when crossing in front of or behind such vehicles. Ensure that the driver has seen you and has ample time to stop before proceeding.

Enhance Visibility

Being as visible as possible is crucial for your safety. Here are some tips to enhance your visibility:

Wheelchair Reflectors: Consider attaching safety reflectors to your wheelchair. Products like RehaDesign's "Wheels on Fire" offer high visibility, particularly in low-light conditions. These reflective accessories make you more noticeable to drivers. Or choose a backpack with reflective designs such as RehaDesign's Stash and Flash Wheelchair Backpack, or their Gel-Palm Wheelchair gloves.

*  Bright Colored Clothing: Opt for bright and contrasting colors when dressing, especially during low-light conditions. These colors make you stand out against your surroundings, improving your visibility to drivers.

* Wheelchair Lights:  Products like RehaDesign's "wUnderGlow" offer wheelchair users the option to add LED lighting to their chairs. These lights not only enhance visibility but also add a unique touch to your wheelchair.

* Wave a Flag: Consider adding a flag to your wheelchair, similar to bicycle trailers. The flapping flag can catch the attention of drivers, making them more aware of your presence.

By following these tips and enhancing your visibility through the use of safety reflectors, bright clothing, wheelchair lights, and flags, you can significantly reduce the risks associated with street crossings. Remember to prioritize intersections with traffic lights, wait for all vehicles to stop moving, and establish eye contact with drivers to ensure a safe journey across the street.

Watch this video with more tips about crossing streets safely in a wheelchair: