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Safer crossings with electric-powered wheelchairs


Electric-powered wheelchairs are important tools for the elderly and people with mobility challenges. They’re also large devices that can create safety hazards if users lose control. Working together, electric wheelchairs users and others around them can help prevent accidents.

Five fatal accidents in Japan in 2018

Electric-powered wheelchair accidents aren’t uncommon on difficult terrain such as slopes, gaps, and railroad crossings. In particular, accidents at railroad crossings can cause serious damage to people and their surroundings. According to the National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (NITE), 12 electric-powered wheelchair accidents were reported across a period of nine years from FY2009 to FY2017.

Five accidents were reported in 2018 as of the end of November, all fatal.

Many accidents are caused by carelessness

Eight of these railroad crossing accidents were determined to be “non-attributable to the product” and may have been prevented by closer attention to correct wheelchair operation. By understanding the causes and conditions that lead to accidents, we can better prevent them from occurring in the future.

When crossing a railroad, please be aware of the following points: (1) allow enough time for crossing, (2) cross with the assistance of others nearby, (3) avoid going near the edge, and (4) cross the rails at a right angle.

It may also be safer to limit wheelchair trips in the evenings and during times when it’s difficult to see the road surface, after drinking alcohol, or when feeling unwell, and to take regular training courses on proper operation.

Get help from others when needed

If someone using an electric-powered wheelchair is caught inside a railroad crossing, it’s is difficult for them to escape on their own. If you see someone struggling, please do what you can to help while staying mindful of your own safety.

When you see someone using an electric-powered wheelchair, take care to watch until they finish crossing the railroad, and don’t hesitate to push the emergency buttons by the crossing if something happens.


Last updated:2019-03-28