Tag Archives: safety

Winter Vehicle Safety Checklist

With the winter months here, it’s important to make sure your adaptive vehicle is in good shape to maximize protection and prevent breakdowns brought on by cold weather conditions. Here are some key items we recommend having checked on your wheelchair accessible vehicle to keep it running at its best and avoid the inconvenience of being stranded outside and emergency repairs.

Get Your Battery Tested
Cold weather can dramatically reduce the strength of your mobility vehicle’s battery. It’s important to have your battery tested to insure it’s fully charged. This is especially true if your battery is over two years old. And don’t forget to have your battery cables, posts and fasteners inspected. The cables should be in good shape and firmly connected to the battery.

Replace Your Wiper Blades
It’s recommended you replace your windshield wiper blades every six months. Ice and snow can be rough on the soft rubber, so we suggest replacing them with a heavier winter blade. Windshields get dirty quickly in the winter months from the sand, salt and spray off the road, so refill your washer fluid often for optimum visibility. Use a 50/50 mix of washer and water.

Check Your Tires
Make sure all of your tires including the spare are in good condition. Take a good look at the tread and consider replacing or rotating your tires if they are starting to wear out. Also check your tire pressure regularly. Cold weather causes tire pressure to drop and may result in the sensors indicating an unsafe driving pressure. Proper tire inflation makes for safer driving and better gas mileage.

Check Hoses, Clamps and Drive Belts
A belt or hose failure can cause serious engine, steering and electrical problems. Have your hoses checked for leaks or soft spots especially around the clamps. The thermal fluctuation between hot and cold can be even more severe in winter than summer months. Flush and refill your cooling system with a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water. It’s also a good idea to make sure the heater and defroster are in good working condition.

Make Sure Your Mobility System Is Operating
Your conversion equipment is exposed to the elements as you enter and exit your handicap accessible vehicle and winter weather can compound those effects. Make sure your lift or ramp are lubricated and adjusted properly. Check the doors, mechanisms and ramp assembly for corrosion and rust. Snow, salt, sand and ice can easily cause problems.

Something to remember no matter what time of year is that having your oil changed regularly is probably the most important thing you can do to extend the life of your vehicle and keep it running properly.

Take The Penny Test

Tires are designed with treads that provide your vehicle with traction. This traction keeps your vehicle driving along the road – even in inclement weather. Without tread, the elements would literally lift your tires off the road. When you drive through snow or a puddle, the grooves in between the tread blocks of the tires become channels that divert the water or snow away from the tires, allowing the tires to maintain traction in these slick conditions.

When the tread gets worn down, the water, snow, and other slippery substances don’t have anywhere to go except directly under your tires severely decreasing your vehicle’s traction. If your tires are nearly bald, traction will be eliminated completely. Decreased traction will negatively affect your control over the vehicle, making it unsafe for you and your passengers. Tread depth will determine whether or not you require new tires. You can easily tell if your tires’ tread is too worn by using a penny.

Take The Penny Test
Who says a penny doesn’t buy you anything? With this easy test, a penny can buy you peace and mind when it comes to your tire safety.

Place a penny head first into several tread grooves across the tire. If you always see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are shallow and worn. If this is the case, your tires need to be replaced. If part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32 of an inch of tread depth remaining. This means you probably don’t need new tires.

Why Worry About Tread Wear?
The most important reason to worry about tread wear is safety. When your tire treads are worn, your vehicle may respond poorly in adverse weather conditions like rain and snow. With good treads, your vehicle will grip the road better. Also, having insufficient tread is considered illegal in many states. And finally, worn treads can make other parts of your vehicle wear prematurely.

Potential Problem Areas

  1. Excessive wear in the center tread indicates over inflation of the tire.
  2. Excessive wear on the shoulders may signal problems such as under inflation of the tire.
  3. Uneven tread wear indicates poor wheel alignment.
  4. Excessive wear on one side of the tire signals incorrect camber angle.
  5. If the treads on the outer section become knobby, it may signal problems with the toe-in value.

 

Benefits of Owning an Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Safety
Safety is a universal concern for people with disAbilities and their caregivers. Many caregivers experience chronic back and joint pain from years of wheelchair lifts. And far too often there are stories of people fearful of loading and unloading their wheelchairs. Mobility vehicles are designed with a dedication to safety. Not only do ramp systems remove the liability, wear and tear and exhaustion of a lift, but brands like VMI adhere to the safety standards and qualifications of original equipment manufacturers like Honda, Toyota, Chrysler and Dodge.

A vehicle conversion from a company like VMI must maintain and provide the same safety ratings, post-conversion, as it did when the original model was created. That means collision safety and design is held to a very high standard. So there’s simply no reason to risk your personal safety or the livelihood of your passengers in an outdated vehicle.

Independence
If the daunting process of wheelchair lifts and transports kept you from leaving home in the past or the frustration of coordinating shuttles and third party transportation limits your lifestyle, look no further.

Mobility vehicles empower opportunity and independence. Frankly, when transportation is a possibility  rather than a limitation, the world gets a whole lot larger. Independent wheelchair users with reliable mobility vehicles hold the power to call the shots on their own life. They can drive where they need to, how they want to, when they want to. A mobility vehicle isn’t just a mechanism to take you from point A to B; A mobility vehicle is an entryway to possibility.

Increased Space and Flexibility
Most modern mobility vehicles feature side-entry and front door benefits which allow an array of seating arrangements and interior flexibility. With such added space, nearly any wheelchair — even power chairs — can fit in the cabin while still leaving room for the rest of the family.

Vehicles such as VMI’s Toyota Sienna Access360 have been engineered to promote a full range of motion and maneuverability for power chairs inside the vehicle, eliminating the need to hastily rearrange and remove seats for transports. Obstruction-free doorways and head clearance also pave the way for an enjoyable transition to and from the vehicle.

Simplicity and Ease-of-Use
Whether you are a caregiver or an independent wheelchair user, mobility vehicles have practical answers.

Through the addition of manual ramp systems and automated, in-floor ramp technology, transportation doesn’t have to remain a daily hassle.  Life often throws bigger dilemmas our way. Mobility vehicles make sure transportation isn’t one of those.

The Northstar E by VMI is a great example of a vehicle that was engineered with simplicity and ease-of-use at the forefront of its design. Caregivers can easily remove the vehicle’s ramp system without physical strain or contemplation. The process is intuitive and quick. Loading and unloading a van can be easily accomplished in a matter of minutes without sacrificing time or energy for the caregiver and loved one.

Mobility vehicles can even be outfitted with aftermarket additions such as remote start and keyless entry to  further simplify the transportation situation for independent wheelchair users and caregivers.

The Importance Of Securing Your Wheelchair While Driving

Having proper restraints for your wheelchair is just as important as you using a seatbelt. There are two types of wheelchair restraints to secure your wheelchair while you are riding or driving; Manual and Electric.

Manual Restraints
Also Known as “tie-down” restraints, require caregiver assistance to ensure proper securement and safety.

Electric Restraints
Also known as power restraints, requires no assistance in use but involves mounting a device on the floor of the van and a device on the bottom of the wheelchair.When these devices are properly fitted they lock into place, creating an audible click, and sometimes use a buzzer and/or light to ensure safe locking.

To ensure safety there are also torso restraints, which may be used along with lap belts and wheelchair restraints to ensure top-notch security. To determine which combination of safety features is right for you contact your local mobility dealer to ensure your safety on the road.

Tire Tread: Will Your Tires Pass The Penny Test

Take The Penny Test

Tires are designed with treads that provide your vehicle with traction. This traction keeps your vehicle driving along the road – even in inclement weather. Without tread, the elements would literally lift your tires off the road. When you drive through snow or a puddle, the grooves in between the tread blocks of the tires become channels that divert the water or snow away from the tires, allowing the tires to maintain traction in these slick conditions.

When the tread gets worn down, the water, snow, and other slippery substances don’t have anywhere to go except directly under your tires severely decreasing your vehicle’s traction. If your tires are nearly bald, traction will be eliminated completely. Decreased traction will negatively affect your control over the vehicle, making it unsafe for you and your passengers. Tread depth will determine whether or not you require new tires. You can easily tell if your tires’ tread is too worn by using a penny.

Take The Penny Test
Who says a penny doesn’t buy you anything? With this easy test, a penny can buy you peace and mind when it comes to your tire safety.

Place a penny head first into several tread grooves across the tire. If you always see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are shallow and worn. If this is the case, your tires need to be replaced. If part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32 of an inch of tread depth remaining. This means you probably don’t need new tires.

Why Worry About Tread Wear?
The most important reason to worry about tread wear is safety. When your tire treads are worn, your vehicle may respond poorly in adverse weather conditions like rain and snow. With good treads, your vehicle will grip the road better. Also, having insufficient tread is considered illegal in many states. And finally, worn treads can make other parts of your vehicle wear prematurely.

Potential Problem Areas

Why Worry about tread wear?

  1. Excessive wear in the center tread indicates over inflation of the tire.
  2. Excessive wear on the shoulders may signal problems such as under inflation of the tire.
  3. Uneven tread wear indicates poor wheel alignment.
  4. Excessive wear on one side of the tire signals incorrect camber angle.
  5. If the treads on the outer section become knobby, it may signal problems with the toe-in value.

Options For Driving From A Wheelchair

There are two options for a person who uses a wheelchair to drive an accessible vehicle. They can drive from their wheelchair and or transfer to the driver’s seat.

Drive from your wheelchair
Driving controls can be adapted to operate from your wheelchair. Usually this means some form of hand controls, though other solutions are possible. There will also be an automatic docking system to secure your wheelchair. All of this will be designed around you and your wheelchair as part of your assessment from an experienced mobility installer.

Safety

  • Because you have the opportunity to travel by yourself, you need to be sure you are able to get out in an emergency.
  • Typically wheelchair accessible vehicle have fail-safe devices for the doors, ramps/lifts and docking systems. These include battery backups and manual over-rides.

Other drivers

  • In many wheelchair accessible vehicles, the front passenger seat can be switched to the drivers side, and there is a docking system on both sides so you can travel as a passenger.

Assessment and training

  • If you’re going to be using adapted controls, you will need a professional driving assessment and training.

Transfer to the Driver’s Seat
Some wheelchair users prefer to transfer to a driving seat because they find it more comfortable or easier to drive. Sometimes it’s necessary because your wheelchair may not be suitable for driving. Using the standard car seat also means that you don’t need to fit a specialist seat belt.

By contrast, transferring into the driver seat may not be suitable if you have a specialist seating system in your wheelchair and may be difficult if you have limited mobility.

Wheelchair accessible vehicles can be adapted to allow you to enter with your wheelchair or scooter (by ramp or lift), secure the wheelchair or scooter in the vehicle, and then transfer to the driving seat. You can replace the standard car seat with one that swivels and slides so that you can transfer into it more easily.

Safety

  • You will need a docking system for securing the wheelchair – you need to be able to do this by yourself.
  • Because you may be traveling by yourself, you need to be sure you will be able to get out in an emergency.

Transferring

  • Transferring between the wheelchair and the seat does take some effort – make sure you can do it even on a bad day.
  • Make sure there is enough room in the vehicle to let you transfer comfortably and that there are handholds and supports where you need them. You may need to fit extra hand rails or other supports.

Assessment and training

  • If you’re going to be using adapted controls, you will need a professional driving assessment and training.

How To Choose A Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

When you’re choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle, you need to think not only about all the same things you do when you’re choosing a standard car, but also other, more specific, things too. Just as when you’re choosing any other car, you may need to compromise and decide which features are most important to you.

Things To Consider

Size

  • Will it fit on your driveway or in your garage? Don’t forget you need to think about the space required for the ramp/lift to be deployed
  • Will it be easy to drive in traffic and on the roads you normally drive on?

Money

  • What’s the price?
  • If you’re buying it yourself, what’s the resale value likely to be?
  • What will it cost you to insure?
  • What’s the fuel consumption like?

Comfort and convenience

  • Can you get in and out easily?
  • Can you use the controls?
  • Is it quiet and smooth when you’re driving?
  • Is there good visibility for everyone in the vehicle?

Space

  • Is there room for all the people and luggage you want to carry?
  • What about times when you might want to carry a lot of luggage or equipment (ex. holidays)?

Features

  • Does it have everything you need?
  • What about air conditioning, automatic transmission, electric windows, remote start, heated seats, etc?

Performance

  • Does it give you reasonable speed and acceleration?
  • What about braking, ride and handling?

Specific considerations

Getting in and out

  • Will you choose a ramp or a lift?
  • Will you have someone to assist you?
  • Can you get in and out without hitting your head or having to duck?

Traveling position

  • Where will your wheelchair sit?
  • Will you be able to see out of the windows?
  • Will you be able to talk to other people easily?

Safety

  • How will you secure yourself and your wheelchair?
  • How will you secure any equipment you use to get in and out?
  • How will you secure anything else (unattended wheelchair, luggage, equipment, etc)?

Reliability

  • Can you rely on the equipment you use to get in and out?
  • What happens if it breaks down?
  • Are there manual over-rides for any powered equipment?
  • Do you have a suitable dealer nearby for servicing?

Build quality

  • Different conversions have been built to different standards, so some will be more comfortable and less noisy inside than others.

How To Spring Your Vehicle Out of Winter

With record snowfalls and cold temperatures this winter has been a tough one, so it’s nice to know that Spring is just around the corner. That thick layer of dried road salt is a good reminder of just how hard winter has been on your vehicle, making the transition to spring an important time to give your car some much-needed TLC.

Battery: If you’ve started your car during extreme cold, you’ve heard the hesitation. Winter weather can be tough on all the starting components in your car like the alternator and starter. In turn, this increases the strain on the battery. Spring is a good time to get your battery tested and, if needed, replaced. If you’ve noticed that your interior lights are a bit dimmer or that your power windows move more slowly when the engine is off, this can be a sign that the end of your battery is near.

Brakes: Winter weather and road salt can be rough on your brakes. This is an important time to get these crucial safety items checked, including lines, hoses, parking brake and brake fluid.

Alignment: With potholes and heaves in the payment, there’s a good chance that winter may have knocked your car out of alignment. Getting your wheels realigned can save wear and tear on your tires and improve your gas mileage. Also a car that is out of alignment can be more difficult to steer and stop which can jeopardize your safety.

Tires: When the temperature changes, you may notice that your tires are a bit soft. Keep them at the right pressure for optimal gas mileage. Give a visual inspection to ensure that you have plenty of tread left, as well. Spring showers will mean wet and flooded roads, so be sure your tires can grip. If you are not certain what the tire pressure should be, check the information on the inside of your door.

Belts and hoses: Extreme temperatures can shorten the life of these vital engine components, leading to cracks and peeling on the belts and hoses. A quick inspection can help ensure that you won’t be surprised by a broken belt or hose.

Filters and Fluids: As part of your regular maintenance, be sure to have your filters and fluids checked, including engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid and antifreeze.

Wipers: Check your wipers for wear and cracks, and replace them if needed. Be sure that the wiper fluid reservoir is refilled.

Exterior: After months of sand and salt, it’s likely your car is well overdue for a washing. Winter’s road grime can be especially harsh on the exterior of your car, making a car wash a great idea. Besides, it will look great, too!

Under Your Vehicle: During winter vehicles are subject to rust and corrosion due to tons of road salt and other airborne pollutants that can cause rapid deterioration of your vehicle. Rust is an example of corrosion. Rust is a serious problem and spreads like a rash. It can shorten the lifespan and value of any vehicle. Correct rust proofing on a regular basis can ensure that your vehicle does not suffer from corrosion related vehicle downtime and keep your van from falling apart. The best time to prevent rust damage to your vehicle is in Autumn: before the first snowflake falls and Spring: after the first heavy rain fall; a little vehicle maintenance will help keep the rust away.

How To Choose An Accessible Vehicle For A Child

Wheelchair vans are often needed by families who have children with disAbilities. Vehicles with special features are available and/or can be converted to accommodate them. The most important step is to start with an appointment with a mobility specialist.

Here are a few facts needed to help determine which accessible option best fits the needs of your child and your family.

The Child’s Size
A mobility consultant should be incredibly thorough in compiling the details such as wheelchair width and height, your child’s height while seated in the wheelchair, and other essential information, which should help identify the perfect van for your family.

Your child’s age and size are factors, too. If your child is young/small the vehicle that they easily fit into now could possibly be out grown. It is important to not only think of their needs now, but also to keep in mind that their needs may change in the future.

The Family’s Size
Consider the size of your family. A big family (5-7 children) might need the extra room provided by a full-size van. For smaller families, an adapted minivan should work nicely, and both vehicle styles can be equipped for wheelchair accessibility. Keep in mind that even an only child will have friends who will join you for an occasional outing.

The Child’s Condition
Along with wheelchair size, your child’s condition has tremendous bearing on vehicle selection. When a child with limited mobility travels with a ventilator or feeding tube, the vehicle must accommodate it. In such situations, rear entry access is often the better option.

Side entry vans require the wheelchair user to maneuver into position; an operating ventilator or feeding tube on an independent portable stand can easily make positioning awkward. Rear entry access eliminates the need to maneuver–the wheelchair and ancillary equipment roll directly into position from the back of the van.

Seating
If you or a caretaker needs to assist your child, it would be helpful to have a seat right next to the wheelchair, as the front passenger seat can make interaction awkward.

Now is a good time to talk about the front-passenger seat, which can be adapted for portability, so you can remove it completely. With a wheelchair docking system installed, the coveted front-passenger position is wheelchair-ready.

That said, size definitely matters here. The laws in some states restrict the size of a child riding in that position, with a typical recommendation of 50 lbs.+ and the ability to tolerate the force of a deployed airbag. A child with a frail or sensitive physical condition should be seated in the middle of the vehicle for safety. Make sure to familiarize yourself with your state’s seat-belt laws for wheelchair passengers.

Passengers
When there are several passengers in the van, middle seating in the vehicle would put your child at the center of attention and always part of the fun. The side entry accessible van has an array of configuration possibilities, including jump seats and the potential for passenger seating in front, alongside, and behind the wheelchair user in any accessible van.

Focus on the Future
When you find the accessible vehicle that fits the needs of you, your child and family now but are concerned about the changes that may come over time, discuss them with your mobility consultant. Future you has a few options. Keep in mind that additional modifications can be made to your vehicle to better fit you and your family. Another option future you will have is to trade in your vehicle for a newer one that will fit your needs better.

Winter Weather Tips for People with DisAbilities: Don’t Get Left Out in the Cold

From commuting to work in your wheelchair accessible vehicle to visiting friends and family following the busy holiday season, here are some winter safety tips for people living with disAbilities.

Function Over Fashion
Dress in layers. Air gets trapped between the layers and acts as insulation. Wearing multiple layers of clothing also gives you the ability to remove layers when you perspire or add them when you get chilled.

Try to avoid wearing cotton clothing, as it will stay wet once it gets wet. Consider moisture wicking, polypropylene and other lightweight, man-made fabrics.

Wear warm gloves. Gripper driving gloves not only keep your hands warm but can help prevent slipping when sleet or ice stick to wheelchairs and other surfaces. Carry an extra pair of gloves with you, in case one pair gets wet.

Protect Your Face
Use sunscreen. People don’t think about it but when the sun reflects off of snow, severe sunburns can occur.

Another good idea is to use Vaseline on exposed areas of your face. It helps prevent your face from getting dry or chapped by acting as a moisture insulator.

Getting Around
Using a wheelchair in snow can be very strenuous, especially if you’re not accustomed to it. Always be careful when maneuvering through the snow, as the extra exertion could have negative effects on your body. If possible, have somebody with you to help.

Pneumatic tires or those made from soft rubber can give wheelchairs better traction on snow and ice. An alternative is to use mountain bike tires that have knobby treads.

Always take your time on slippery surfaces so you don’t go into a slide and lose control. Be especially mindful while driving a mobility vehicle and keep winter driving tips for maneuvering over slush, ice and snow in mind.

Batteries can lose 60% of their charge when temps get cold, so keep them warm with covers.

Make sure you take proper care of your handicap accessible vehicle by following the appropriate winter car-care suggestions.

Don’t Forget Your Pets
Dogs can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite, too. If you’re accompanied by a service animal or taking a pet outside, consider a dog coat and boots for their feet. It’s also a good idea to keep a blanket in your vehicle for your pet.

Winter Vehicle Safety Checklist

With the winter months here, it’s important to make sure your adaptive vehicle is in good shape to maximize protection and prevent breakdowns brought on by cold weather conditions. Here are some key items we recommend having checked on your wheelchair accessible vehicle to keep it running at its best and avoid the inconvenience of being stranded outside and emergency repairs.

Get Your Battery Tested
Cold weather can dramatically reduce the strength of your mobility vehicle’s battery. It’s important to have your battery tested to insure it’s fully charged. This is especially true if your battery is over two years old. And don’t forget to have your battery cables, posts and fasteners inspected. The cables should be in good shape and firmly connected to the battery.

Replace Your Wiper Blades
It’s recommended you replace your windshield wiper blades every six months. Ice and snow can be rough on the soft rubber, so we suggest replacing them with a heavier winter blade. Windshields get dirty quickly in the winter months from the sand, salt and spray off the road, so refill your washer fluid often for optimum visibility. Use a 50/50 mix of washer and water.

Check Your Tires
Make sure all of your tires including the spare are in good condition. Take a good look at the tread and consider replacing or rotating your tires if they are starting to wear out. Also check your tire pressure regularly. Cold weather causes tire pressure to drop and may result in the sensors indicating an unsafe driving pressure. Proper tire inflation makes for safer driving and better gas mileage.

Check Hoses, Clamps and Drive Belts
A belt or hose failure can cause serious engine, steering and electrical problems. Have your hoses checked for leaks or soft spots especially around the clamps. The thermal fluctuation between hot and cold can be even more severe in winter than summer months. Flush and refill your cooling system with a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water. It’s also a good idea to make sure the heater and defroster are in good working condition.

Make Sure Your Mobility System Is Operating
Your conversion equipment is exposed to the elements as you enter and exit your handicap accessible vehicle and winter weather can compound those effects. Make sure your lift or ramp are lubricated and adjusted properly. Check the doors, mechanisms and ramp assembly for corrosion and rust. Snow, salt, sand and ice can easily cause problems.

Something to remember no matter what time of year is that having your oil changed regularly is probably the most important thing you can do to extend the life of your vehicle and keep it running properly.

Holiday Travel Safety Tips

With Christmas and New Year’s swiftly approaching, multitudes of people will be traveling.  AAA predicts 98.6 million Americans will travel this holiday season between December 23, 2014 and January 4, 2015.  The organization also anticipates that 91% will travel by car, truck, or van, 6% will travel by air, and 3% will take a bus or train.  All of this travel traffic can make it treacherous to get around if you are not paying attention.

In addition to the higher risk of traveling during the holidays with the extra people on the road, the weeks before can also be dangerous as many folks are out shopping and may be distracted as the frantically rush around searching for the perfect gifts.

Awareness of the days with the highest number of vehicles on the road and staying alert are extremely important strategies to staying safe while traveling.  Other strategies for staying safe are:

  • Try to travel on days and at times that are not peak travel days and times.  If most people will be traveling Wednesday through Sunday, try to travel Tuesday through Saturday.  Strive to travel early in the day and at times when traffic volume is the lowest.
  • Plan your route around malls, big stores, airports, and major sporting venues to avoid the crowds and congestion.
  • Before a long drive, make sure you get plenty of sleep and have something to eat.
  • Take breaks every few hours, even if you’re not sleepy. Get out and walk around to stretch your legs.  Play Frisbee or catch with the kids.  Have a snack.  It will keep you more alert.
  • Make sure your vehicle is in prime condition before the trip. Change the oil, if needed.  Make sure the fluid levels and gas tank are full and that tires are properly inflated.
  • Share the driving. If you are alone, turn on the music and crack the window to help stay alert.  You may want to use your foot on the gas pedal to control the speed and not the cruise control to keep yourself more vigilant.
  • Make sure everyone is buckled up.
  • Make sure the vehicle is stocked with a map or atlas, jumper cables, spare tire, wiper fluid, first aid kit, pillow, blanket, and snacks. Bringing snacks from home is usually healthier and cheaper than getting them from a vending machine.
  • If traveling with children, pack activities to entertain them such as movies, coloring books, toys, activity books, etc. Remember to stop for frequent breaks and to have some fun.
  • Start looking for a gas station when your gas gauge reads ¼ tank. Don’t wait until you are on empty to fill up. The next exit with a gas station may be quite a distance away.

Driving Safely In Winter

Unfortunately, snow isn’t the only thing to watch out for while behind the wheel of a wheelchair accessible vehicle during the colder months. There’s also slush, black ice and blizzards. Fortunately, with the correct driving techniques, each can be handled stress free and safely.

Be Prepared
First and foremost, if you’ll be driving in the snow anytime soon, be prepared. This means having you car winterized before it’s needed. Depending on your location this can mean installing both snow tires and winter windshield wipers. Be sure to contact your local NMEDA dealer to find out if there are any special precautions you should take to get your handicap van ready for the snow. Additionally, have your battery, defroster, and antifreeze checked and stock your vehicle with emergency supplies like blankets, flashlights, food, water, shovel, sand, and first aid. Also, it’s a good idea to always have at least a half tank of gas. This gives the car some extra weight to help prevent skidding, but it’s also is safer in the event of getting lost or stranded. Finally, be sure to plan for extra time to get to your destination. You should never feel rushed or feel as if you have an excuse to speed.

Driving in Snow
First things first, slow down! Ten to fifteen miles per hour is a good speed of thumb when driving in snow. Always give yourself more stopping room because even in mild conditions, a little bit of skidding can be common. Also, try not to use cruise control. Your reaction time will not only be delayed, but if your vehicle begins to slide it will continue to accelerate. Make turns gently and avoid changing lanes unless necessary. If you must switch lanes, turn your wheel gradually to avoid fish tailing.

In the event you do slide off the road, don’t immediately try to gun it out or else you may dig yourself in. First, try a gentle acceleration. If this doesn’t get you out, stop and turn your wheel side to side to push snow away from the tires. Your best bet is to then use a shovel to clear snow and then spread sand for traction, however if you have limited mobility or use a wheelchair (meaning maneuvering in the snow might be difficult), it might be best to call a family member or emergency road service to help you get back on the road.

Driving on Ice
Iced over roads are one of the most dangerous aspects of driving during the winter. Black ice is hard to spot because it’s almost invisible, but if you begin to slide over it, take your foot off both the brake and the accelerator. Let your car slide and try to keep the car straight until you get traction back. If you lose control and start going off the road, try to guide your car toward an area with minimal damage possibilities. In general, look out for shady spots where the sun can’t melt the ground because black ice is more likely found here.

Driving in a Blizzard
If a blizzard hits while you’re out on the road, turn on your lights so that other drivers can easily see you, avoid changing lanes and be sure to pull over if you feel unsafe. If you do pull over, just make sure to get away from traffic and turn on your hazard lights.

If possible, avoid driving in the snow completely. If you do need to go out, many counties and towns list what roads have been plowed and salted online, so check to see if you can plan a safer route.

Hopefully with these tips you’ll now have a better understanding of how to handle your vehicle on winter roads. In general, if there’s any snow, ice, or slush on the road, driving slower and giving enough stopping room will eliminate many of the problems you might face. Add some common sense and good judgment, and you’ll be well on your way to mastering inclement weather.

Service Dogs

Service dogs can build your independence by boosting your mobility. These four-legged friends pull wheelchairs, function as a mobile cane for balance, and even perform many of the daily tasks you may have difficulty with.

While these “working dogs” are trained to retrieve dropped items, pull clothing on and off, and bring medication, their canine capabilities also prove to be essential in an emergency. For all of the reasons your furry friend is important to your daily routine, it’s equally important to ensure their safety during travel. Properly securing your service animal correctly in your vehicle can be a matter of life and death for both of you.

Just as you would secure your wheelchair with straps and other devices, you should secure your service animal properly and comfortably in your vehicle, as well. Be sure the car is properly ventilated and that crates or units are secured.

As a service dog usually stays by the owner’s side, a belt usually proves as the best option in securing your dog in the vehicle to guarantee his/her safety. Help your hound out with a body harness specifically made for canine car travel. Service vests can even be custom-made to better suit your animal and your vehicle.

Some dogs may get uncomfortable not being able to look out of the window and see where they are going, especially small dogs. The Snoozer Lookout helps satisfy your pooch’s curiosity and need to see. The Snoozer Lookout is a seat that allows your pet to sit higher while staying safely strapped in.

It goes without saying that properly securing your service animal not only keeps them safe from harm on the roadways, but also makes for a comfortable ride along with you.

Benefits of Owning an Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Safety
Safety is a universal concern for people with disAbilities and their caregivers. Many caregivers experience chronic back and joint pain from years of wheelchair lifts. And far too often there are stories of people fearful of loading and unloading their wheelchairs. Mobility vehicles are designed with a dedication to safety. Not only do ramp systems remove the liability, wear and tear and exhaustion of a lift, but brands like VMI adhere to the safety standards and qualifications of original equipment manufacturers like Honda, Toyota, Chrysler and Dodge.

A vehicle conversion from a company like VMI must maintain and provide the same safety ratings, post-conversion, as it did when the original model was created. That means collision safety and design is held to a very high standard. So there’s simply no reason to risk your personal safety or the livelihood of your passengers in an outdated vehicle.

Independence
If the daunting process of wheelchair lifts and transports kept you from leaving home in the past or the frustration of coordinating shuttles and third party transportation limits your lifestyle, look no further.

Mobility vehicles empower opportunity and independence. Frankly, when transportation is a possibility  rather than a limitation, the world gets a whole lot larger. Independent wheelchair users with reliable mobility vehicles hold the power to call the shots on their own life. They can drive where they need to, how they want to, when they want to. A mobility vehicle isn’t just a mechanism to take you from point A to B; A mobility vehicle is an entryway to possibility.

Increased Space and Flexibility
Most modern mobility vehicles feature side-entry and front door benefits which allow an array of seating arrangements and interior flexibility. With such added space, nearly any wheelchair — even power chairs — can fit in the cabin while still leaving room for the rest of the family.

Vehicles such as VMI’s Toyota Sienna Access360 have been engineered to promote a full range of motion and maneuverability for power chairs inside the vehicle, eliminating the need to hastily rearrange and remove seats for transports. Obstruction-free doorways and head clearance also pave the way for an enjoyable transition to and from the vehicle.

Simplicity and Ease-of-Use
Whether you are a caregiver or an independent wheelchair user, mobility vehicles have practical answers.

Through the addition of manual ramp systems and automated, in-floor ramp technology, transportation doesn’t have to remain a daily hassle.  Life often throws bigger dilemmas our way. Mobility vehicles make sure transportation isn’t one of those.

The Northstar E by VMI is a great example of a vehicle that was engineered with simplicity and ease-of-use at the forefront of its design. Caregivers can easily remove the vehicle’s ramp system without physical strain or contemplation. The process is intuitive and quick. Loading and unloading a van can be easily accomplished in a matter of minutes without sacrificing time or energy for the caregiver and loved one.

Mobility vehicles can even be outfitted with aftermarket additions such as remote start and keyless entry to  further simplify the transportation situation for independent wheelchair users and caregivers.

Tire Tread: Take The Penny Test

Take The Penny Test

Tires are designed with treads that provide your vehicle with traction. This traction keeps your vehicle driving along the road – even in inclement weather. Without tread, the elements would literally lift your tires off the road. When you drive through snow or a puddle, the grooves in between the tread blocks of the tires become channels that divert the water or snow away from the tires, allowing the tires to maintain traction in these slick conditions.

When the tread gets worn down, the water, snow, and other slippery substances don’t have anywhere to go except directly under your tires severely decreasing your vehicle’s traction. If your tires are nearly bald, traction will be eliminated completely. Decreased traction will negatively affect your control over the vehicle, making it unsafe for you and your passengers. Tread depth will determine whether or not you require new tires. You can easily tell if your tires’ tread is too worn by using a penny.

Take The Penny Test
Who says a penny doesn’t buy you anything? With this easy test, a penny can buy you peace and mind when it comes to your tire safety.

Place a penny head first into several tread grooves across the tire. If you always see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are shallow and worn. If this is the case, your tires need to be replaced. If part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32 of an inch of tread depth remaining. This means you probably don’t need new tires.

Why Worry About Tread Wear?
The most important reason to worry about tread wear is safety. When your tire treads are worn, your vehicle may respond poorly in adverse weather conditions like rain and snow. With good treads, your vehicle will grip the road better. Also, having insufficient tread is considered illegal in many states. And finally, worn treads can make other parts of your vehicle wear prematurely.

Potential Problem Areas

Why Worry about tread wear?

  1. Excessive wear in the center tread indicates over inflation of the tire.
  2. Excessive wear on the shoulders may signal problems such as under inflation of the tire.
  3. Uneven tread wear indicates poor wheel alignment.
  4. Excessive wear on one side of the tire signals incorrect camber angle.
  5. If the treads on the outer section become knobby, it may signal problems with the toe-in value.

CAPABLE, DURABLE, VERSATILE, STYLISH Dodge Grand Caravan Review

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Getting the family across town, moving furniture, camping out, or towing a boat: whatever you need, the Grand Caravan can help make it happen.

THE INDUSTRY STANDARD IN
SAFETY & SECURITY.

Over 45 safety, security, and technology features – such as Electronic Stability Control, anti-lock brakes, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path Detection help ensure that your drive won’t be unintentionally exciting.

What’s New for 2012-2013

For 2012 & 2013, the Dodge Grand Caravan lineup receives revised trim levels, including a new, lower-cost base model dubbed the American Value Package.

Introduction

At its debut back in 1984, the Dodge Caravan introduced American families to a new, extremely space-efficient vehicle: the minivan. The larger, “Grand” version debuted a few years later. It was a huge hit that remained a strong seller through the years, despite rivals that sprouted like so many dandelions on a suburban lawn. The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan isn’t the dominator it was so many years ago, but it’s also much improved compared to past iterations.

Dodge refreshed the Grand Caravan in 2011 to bring about increases in engine performance, fuel economy, driving dynamics and cabin quality. Specifically, the V6 provides class-leading power along with decent fuel economy, the handling is fairly agile for such a big vehicle and the cabin boasts not only solid materials quality but also the clever Stow ‘n Go feature that allows both the second- and third-row seats to fold flat into the floor.

Nevertheless, the Grand Caravan still finds itself in an uphill battle against a couple of very tough competitors. Lined up tire-to-tire against the Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna, the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan (and its Chrysler Town & Country twin) comes up a bit short in terms of engine refinement, ride quality and passenger comfort, even though the Dodge has the advantage in all-out cargo-carrying ease thanks to those Stow n’ Go second-row seats. As such, unless you plan to frequently switch your minivan from people mover to cargo van, we suggest cross-shopping the competition.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan is a minivan that can seat up to seven passengers. It is offered in five trim levels: American Value Package (AVP), SE, SXT, Crew and R/T.

The AVP comes with 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, power front windows, dual-zone air-conditioning, second-row Stow ‘n Go bucket seats, a conversation mirror and a four-speaker audio system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and steering-wheel-mounted controls.

The SE adds body-color door handles/side molding, tinted rear windows, triple-zone climate control (with rear air-conditioning), a front floor console, floor mats and a six-speaker audio system. The optional SE Plus group includes alloy wheels, body-color mirrors and front/rear power windows. The available UConnect group includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel/shift knob, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface.

The SXT is essentially an SE with the SE Plus group. But the SXT offers more in the way of options, such as a power liftgate, power sliding doors, power-adjustable pedals, remote start and a rear DVD entertainment system.

Stepping up to the Crew trim level gets you foglights, a roof rack, chrome body-side accents, power sliding doors, tri-zone automatic climate control, a larger center console, an overhead console, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power driver seat, power-adjustable pedals, a trip computer, a 115-volt power outlet, a touchscreen display and an upgraded audio system with satellite radio and digital music storage. Optional is a Media Center package that includes the upgraded audio along with a larger display screen, a back-up camera and a navigation system with real-time traffic and weather.

The sporty R/T lies at the top of the lineup with 17-inch alloy wheels, a body-color grille, performance-tuned suspension and brakes, leather first- and second-row seats, a power-adjustable front passenger seat, a back-up camera and a premium Infinity sound system.

Various other option highlights (some depending on trim level) include automatic headlights, automatic wipers, running boards, a trailer tow package, rear parking and cross-traffic sensors, a blind-spot warning system, second- and third-row sunshades, heated second-row seats and a heated steering wheel.

Powertrains and Performance

All 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan models are powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

In Edmunds testing, the 2012 Grand Caravan accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8 seconds — average for a minivan. Fuel mileage estimates stand at 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined.

Safety

Standard safety features for the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan include active front head restraints, driver knee airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, front-seat side airbags, antilock disc brakes, stability control and traction control. Optional features include a blind-spot monitoring system, rear parking and cross-traffic sensors, and a rearview camera.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Grand Caravan Crew came to a stop from 60 mph in 130 feet — an average distance for a minivan. The R/T with its better brakes stops in a strong 119 feet. In government crash testing, the Grand Caravan was given an overall score of four out of five stars, with four stars for overall frontal-impact and five stars for overall side-impact testing. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Dodge Grand Caravan was awarded the highest possible rating of “Good” in the frontal-offset and side crash tests.

Interior Design and Special Features

The Grand Caravan’s interior features quality materials and solid build quality that make it equal to — if not better than — rivals such as the Sienna. There is a total seating capacity of seven, which is in contrast to the eight possible in the Odyssey and Sienna. In terms of comfort, the front seats are supportive, but even drivers of average height have noted that the driver seat doesn’t slide far enough rearward. The bottom cushions of the second-row seats are somewhat low to the floor, but they are tilted back slightly to make the seating position comfortable for passengers with long legs. The third row is tilted even farther back, which may make it a bit strange for children and smaller adults. Taller adults may find limited headroom back there.

Unlike other minivans that require the removal of the middle row of seats to achieve maximum cargo capacity, the Grand Caravan benefits from its Stow ‘n Go second-row seats that fold flat into the floor. Operating these seats is fairly simple — only a quick tug of a strap and a few gentle yanks are required to make them disappear into the floor. The third-row seats fold into a deep cargo well, but require several more steps to transform. Luggage space behind the rear seats is a generous 33 cubic feet. Stowing all seats opens up 143.8 cubes, comparable to other minivans.

Driving Impressions

In terms of acceleration and handling, the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan is a contender. But segment leaders like the Odyssey and Sienna are still steps ahead as they boast greater refinement in terms of powertrain performance and overall ride quality, both of which are smoother than the Grand Caravan’s. For example, the Dodge’s responsive six-speed automatic transmission does an admirable job of keeping power on tap, but sometimes its gearchanges can be jarring. The steering is slightly heavier and the suspension is a bit less compliant compared to its competition.

 Reviewers like how much cargo the 2013 Grand Caravan can carry. It also has clever features, like second row seats that fold into the floor, that reviewers say make the interior flexible.  However, some reviewers also complain that those folding seats are uncomfortable. Standard features on the base model are sparse and include dual-zone climate control and an auxiliary audio input jack.  Available features on higher trims include Bluetooth, navigation, a rearview camera, a rear-seat entertainment system and USB ports.

Give us a call with any of your Dodge Grand Caravan wheelchair van questions 508-697-6006