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Capitol Correspondence - 01.05.21

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Proposes New Rule to Improve Access to Rental Cars

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Transportation challenges are a key obstacle to the independence and financial well-being of people with disabilities. As such, we share this announcement by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in case it is of interest to our members who engage in transportation policy discussions.

“Today the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a rule to expand mobility for people with disabilities.  This supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) would allow two new modifications for adaptive equipment. The notice proposes to a rule to improve access to rental cars, simplify transportation of wheelchairs and power scooters.

The first proposed change would allow rental car companies to temporarily disable a driver’s knee bolster air bag to install hand controls to assist people with disabilities requiring vehicular hand controls to rent vehicles safely.  If the knee bolster air bag were to deploy in a crash, the resulting force of the deployment could cause the hand controls to strike the driver with extreme forces and create a serious risk to the safety of the driver. 

The second proposed change would permit installation of rear-mounted transporters for wheelchairs and power scooters.  These transporters could block the backup camera’s view but would improve mobility for drivers and passengers with disabilities.

As you may know, Federal law generally prohibits a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, rental company, or motor vehicle repair business from knowingly making inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle in compliance with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.  By issuing specific exemptions that balance mobility and safety, NHTSA allows motor vehicle dealers and repair businesses to improve the mobility of drivers and passengers with disabilities.

The public will have 30 days to comment on the SNPRM, It is posted here https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/2020-28648/make-inoperative-exemptions-vehicle-modifications-to-accommodate-people-with-disabilities