Technology Series

Understanding WC19 Crash Testing

WC19 Crash TestingThe RESNA WC19 crash-testing standard has been around awhile, but familiarity with it can vary greatly within the seating & mobility industry. The voluntary standard applies to wheelchairs used as seating within a motor vehicle — that is, when a passenger or driver sits in his/her wheelchair rather than transferring first to an automotive seat.

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheelchair Transportation Safety (RERCWTS) says, “When traveling in a motor vehicle, it is generally safest for wheelchair users to transfer to a vehicle seat and use the vehicle seatbelt system or a child safety seat that complies with federal safety standards. The wheelchair should then be stored and secured in the vehicle.”

But not all motor vehicle passengers can be easily transferred to vehicle seats; other passengers require the specialty seating & positioning equipment that their wheelchairs provide and that car seats and OEM vehicle seating do not. So for a large number of vehicle passengers, riding while in their wheelchairs is the most feasible transportation option.

More Than Just Tying Down the Wheelchair

Safely transporting such passengers is a complex endeavor involving not just the safe securement of the wheelchair, but also the correct use of restraints to keep passengers safely in their wheelchairs — aka, the Wheelchair Tie-down & Occupant Restraint System (WTORS) — and securing other components, such as wheelchair trays, so they don’t become flying projectiles if the vehicle makes a sudden movement or is in a crash.

In her Dec. 5 Mobility Management Webinar called “Safety Considerations for Transporting Clients with Special Needs,” Delia Freney, OTR/L, ATP, pointed out that a large number of injuries sustained by wheelchair users in motor vehicles happened not in crashes, but in “sudden maneuvers.” Statistics from 2002 through 2006 showed that of more than 6,100 motor vehicle incidents that led to injuries, 19 percent were sudden stops, 10 percent were turns, and 2 percent were vehicle accelerations. Nearly one third of all injuries happened not in an actual car crash, but when the vehicle stopped or moved.

Crash-Testing Resources

  • To listen to the “Safety Considerations” Webinar — viewable on demand through March 6 for an $89 registration fee — go to
  • For step-by-step advice on wheelchair user safety in motor vehicles, check out the Ride Safe Web site ( Hard-copy brochures are available from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute; e-mail
  • For an updated (October 2014) list of wheelchairs and seating systems successfully crash tested with four-point strap securement, go to

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of Mobility Management.

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