Development of a Wheelchair Side Impact Test Procedure

Sponsor: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Dates: October 2021 to May 2023

Researchers: Kathleen D. Klinich, Jingwen Hu, Miriam Manary, Kyle Boyle, Nichole Orton

The goal of this project was to develop test procedures that will lead to improved safety in side impact crashes for people who travel while seated in their wheelchairs. Elements that are needed to achieve this are:

  • Wheelchairs that remains intact and keep the occupant positioned relative to the airbag
  • Tiedowns that secure wheelchairs under lateral loading
  • Occupant protection systems for nearside and farside impact

The test procedures, tools, and models developed in this project tried to address the different needs of wheelchairs manufacturers, WTORS manufacturers, and vehicle manufacturers, while also considering how to maximize both independence and safety of wheelchair users. The method for developing elements of the testing procedure included analysis to develop a relevant crash pulse, placement of the wheelchair station relative to simulated vehicle interior, seatbelt conditions, and appropriately simulated vehicle intrusion. Sled tests were performed to validate surrogate fixtures and commercial hardware being used to develop finite element (FE) models that can demonstrate the procedure. Additional tests were performed to determine how to adapt the Surrogate Wheelchair Base (SWCB) for use as a Surrogate Wheelchair for Side Impact (SWCSI), as well as to evaluate proposed performance criteria for wheelchairs and WTORS in side impact. Validated FE models were developed for the SWCB, SWCSI, a manual wheelchair (Ki Mobility Catalyst 5), and a power wheelchair (Quantum Rehab Edge 2.0). Additional FE models of a heavy-duty anchor meeting the Universal Docking Interface Geometry (UDIG), surrogate four-point strap tiedowns (SWTORS), a traditional docking station, and the surrogate wall fixture were also developed. Comparisons of sled tests and FE models show acceptable validation results. The proposed wheelchair side impact test procedure includes separate sections for testing wheelchairs, WTORS, and vehicle-based occupant protection systems.

Development of Side Impact Test Procedures for Improved Wheelchair Transportation Safety

Draft Side Impact Test Procedures

Side Impact Wall Drawings

Computational Models