Drivers Urged to Watch for Motorized-Wheelchair Users

Wheelchair users travel in a blind spot, often going unseen by drivers and even pedestrians.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Prompted by at least three incidents in which wheelchair-bound Angelenos were struck by cars during the last month, law enforcement and disability advocates are urging drivers to add wheelchair users to their radar. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Van Nuys for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Jan. 21, 2013. (Published Monday, Jan 21, 2013)

    Prompted by at least three incidents in which wheelchair-bound Angelenos were struck by cars during the last month, law enforcement and disability advocates are urging drivers to add wheelchair users to their radar.

    A woman in a motorized wheelchair was struck and killed by a driver on Saturday in Van Nuys. Last month, a woman’s legs were broken after a hit-and-run driver struck her in Laguna Hills as she traveled in her wheelchair.

    Wheelchair-Bound Man Killed in Hit and Run

    [LA] Caught on Video: Wheelchair-Bound Man Killed in Hit and Run
    Surveillance video was released Thursday showing a hit-and-run crash that killed a man in a wheelchair over the weekend. Police and the man’s family hope the video will help identify the driver who fled the scene. Detectives say the car should have significant damage on the front end because of the collision. Lolita Lopez reports from Long Beach for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Dec. 13, 2012. (Published Friday, Dec 14, 2012)

    And a couple weeks after that crash, surveillance cameras captured a driver in Long Beach strike and kill a man trying to cross the street in his motorized wheelchair.

    Disabled by polio since childhood, Marcy Hernandez bought an electric scooter about ten years ago. It’s enabled her to work, go shopping and travel. In a word, she said, her scooter is freedom.

    And she’s not alone. An estimated 2 million Americans use wheelchairs and as the nation’s senior population increases every year, high-tech motorized devices are keeping pace.

    "We’ve got more people on the street, more wheelchairs out there," said Norma Jean Vescovo with Independent Living Center of Southern California.

    "There’s so many reasons why people get into trouble on the street," Vescovo said.

    Traffic officers at the LAPD West Valley Division said drivers often do not see wheelchairs because they’re low to the ground. Even strollers, bicycles and cars have a higher profile.

    Hernandez is reminded every time she visits the supermarket that she travels in a blind spot.

    "People are just looking around," she said. "They're not looking down, where I am."

    On the street, that can be fatal. Drivers are being reminded that even the most high-tech chair travels much slower than the average pedestrian.

    Disability advocates advise wheelchair users to look at drivers’ faces and make sure they’ve seen them before going into traffic.

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