Forces, moments, and acceleration acting on a restrained dummy during simulation of three possible accidents involving a wheelchair negotiating a curb: comparison between lap belt and four-point belt

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. Sep-Oct 1997;76(5):370-7. doi: 10.1097/00002060-199709000-00004.


The objective of this study was to determine the effect of two types of restraining belts (lap belt and a four-point belt) on an instrumented dummy during three situations: wheelchair hitting straight into curb (SIC); wheelchair falling straight off a curb (SOC); wheelchair falling diagonally off a curb (DOC). A fully instrumented (50th percentile Hybrid III) dummy was seated in a standard wheelchair and restrained with one of the belts. The wheelchair rolled down a ramp reaching a platform at 2.4 miles per hour (comfortable walking speed). Three types of experiments were performed: SIC, SOC, DOC. Each experiment was repeated at least three times. Forces, moments, and acceleration were monitored and recorded via 48 sensors placed at the head, spine, and limbs. All experiments were videotaped and photographed. The data were averaged and compared with standards that have been previously established in car crash testing and with data recently obtained in a similar study using a nonrestrained dummy. Our results showed that in the SIC experiments, low magnitude forces, moments, and acceleration of no clinical significance were recorded with both types of belts. The wheelchair remained upright and the dummy safely seated. In the SOC experiments, the two belts prevented the dummy's ejection from the chair and, thus, have been effective in lowering the forces, moments, and acceleration and preventing significant injuries to the head and neck regions. In the DOC experiments, the lap belt proved to be somewhat more effective than the four-point belt in lowering the extension forces at the upper neck and the moments at the lower neck below injury levels. It also kept the head injury criteria well below injury level. We postulate that the four-point belt was less effective because of its more extensive body fixation, which leads to concentration of moments and forces at the head and lower neck regions. The results of this study show that restraining systems can enhance the safety of wheelchair occupants in certain incidents. It has been demonstrated that the lap belt is as effective as the four-point belt system in SIC and SOC incidents. In DOC falls, neither belt could prevent falls and trauma to the head and neck region. The lap belt, however, was somewhat superior. We recommend that wheelchairs be equipped with a lap belt and patients be encouraged to buckle-up while using the wheelchair outdoors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Accident Prevention
  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / prevention & control*
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Neck Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Seat Belts*
  • Wheelchairs*