How fast is a motorized wheelchair supposed to go and where, the street or the sidewalk?

Just last week I heard about a motorized chair going the wrong way in traffic, several accidents were caused and traffic was tied up during rush hour. Almost daily I see someone in the street in a motorized wheel chair. You don’t know what to do, should you honk, pass or give them the right of way?


I did a little research to see what the laws are for these chairs and scooters. According to PennDot (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) self-propelled wheel­chairs (electric wheel­chairs) or an electric mobility device, specifically designed for and used by an individual with a mobility-related disability in lieu of walking, can be used on the berm of a roadway. These devices are not considered vehicles as defined by Section 102 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, so they are not subject to titling, registration, insurance, inspection and driver licensing laws. Operators of these devices should follow laws related to and be treated by motorists the same as a pedestrian.

Now we’re talking, they are to be treated like someone walking. So that means I can honk the horn and they need to respect the traffic lights and stop signs. I know how hard this must be for the people in the wheelchair, there are so many sidewalks that are not fit for walking let alone someone in a wheelchair.

How fast do these chairs go, and how often do the batteries have to be replaced or charged? Back to the Internet for more research: The actual term is “electric personal assistive mobility device,” or “EPAMD,” and means a self-balancing, non-tandem two-wheeled device that is not greater than 20” deep and 25” wide. It can turn in place and is designed to transport only one person, with an electric propulsion system averaging less than 750 watts (1 horsepower), the maximum speed of which, when powered solely by a propulsion system on a paved level surface is no more than 12.5 mph.

Many people are using what is called a scooter instead of a wheelchair, here is something about the scooters. Many motor scooters do not have the necessary equipment, such as fenders, turn signals, lights, etc., to pass inspection. Individuals who are looking into purchasing a motor scooter for transportation purposes should verify that there is a manufacturer’s certification label affixed to the scooter indicating the scooter meets the applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for a motorcycle and the certification label is located on a permanent part of the scooter close to the intersection of the steering post with the handlebars and should be easily readable without moving any part of the vehicle except the steering system. Those not manufactured for highway use will not have a certification label and cannot be operated on highways. Even if a motor scooter were properly equipped and could pass inspection, it still may not be appropriate for use on all roadways if it is not powerful enough to keep up with other traffic. No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic. A motor scooter owner or potential owner should check with local law enforcement officials to ensure they can operate a motor scooter on their intended travel route.

(E-mail the columnist at deb­bie­

Also On New Pittsburgh Courier:
comments – Add Yours