GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — At the National Association for Pupil Transportation Summit, Q'Straint announced that its new QRT-360 retractor meets the higher-strength requirements of WC18 that take effect in December 2015.
According to the U.S. Department of Education's Rehabilitation Engineering Center on Wheelchair Transportation Safety (RERC), the aim of WC18 is to encourage the design, testing, installation and use of wheelchair tiedown and occupant restraint systems. The WTORS will provide effective wheelchair securement and occupant restraint for forward-facing occupants in frontal collisions, comparable to equipment installed by the vehicle manufacturer that must comply with federal motor vehicle safety standards. RERC said the primary purpose is to reduce the likelihood of serious injuries to wheelchair-seated occupants involved in a frontal vehicle crashes, but it also anticipates the use of equipment in compliance with this standard will increase driver and passenger safety and security during normal travel.
Q'Straint said the QRT-360 meets the new revised (WTORS) "well in advance" of the December 2015 deadline. At that time, compliance with WC18 will require frontal-impact sled testing of the wheelchair tie-down system with the crash-test dummy restrained by a three-point lap/shoulder belt with a lap belt anchored to the 187-pound surrogate wheelchair. This will require a large percentage of the wheelchair-passenger restraint forces to betransmitted to the rear tie-down straps.
Q'Straint added that the new QRT-360 is the first four-point, heavy-duty, fully-automatic and retractable tie-down system designed, engineered and built to perform successfully in a 30-mph frontal crash. The user of a powered wheelchair traveling in a motor vehicle while using a commercially available crashworthy lap belt must be used in the frontal-impact test conducted of wheelchairs under WC19, industry standard for designing, testing and labeling a wheelchair that is ready to be used as a seat in a motor vehicle.
The QRT-360 promises a shortened retractor footprint that allows more flexibility in vehicle anchor-point locations to better accommodate large wheelchairs. The revolutionary new product is therefore compatible with the widest variety of wheelchairs and is an acceptable solution to wheelchair securement in all types of motor-vehicles.
"Transit providers, including those who provide school transportation, para-transit and public-bus services, and family members and caregivers who operate private vehicles need to be aware of these new standards and products that comply with them," said Dr. Larry Schneider, a research professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. "They should also give serious consideration to purchasing and installing the latest versions of tie-down/restraint equipment that has improved over the years to become much easier to use, especially for people who are traveling while seated in a WC19 wheelchair with four easily accessible securement points."
The QRT-360 design utilizes innovative energy management features and material technologies to deliver the system's full strength for maximum load capacity, according to Q'Straint. It features an energy-absorbing steel frame, new high-strength 58-mm wide webbing, and a fine-adjustment self-tensioning mechanism using 25 high-strength teeth in the retractor locking mechanism. The geometry of the teeth and an innovative new locking bar ensure perpendicular alignment for maximum strength in all tie-down situations. A re-engineered positive-locking Interface in the retractor mechanism contributes to the system's ability to resist extremely high dynamic loads. The QRT-360 is covered by a comprehensive five-year warranty.
The WC19 standard requires that wheelchairs designed for adults and children who weigh 50 lb or more are crash tested with a commercially available wheelchair-anchored lap belt to which a vehicle-anchored shoulder belt can be connected to comprise a three-point belt restraint system. Use of this wheelchair-anchored lap-belt restraint option by passengers seated in wheelchairs enhances overall safety by providing better positioning of the lap belt low on the pelvis and preventing wheelchair components, such as arm supports, from interfering with proper lap-belt positioning. It thereby reduces the risk of the wheelchair occupant "submarining" under the lap belt in a frontal crash, which can result in serious injury to the occupant's abdomen. A crashworthy wheelchair-anchored lap belt also reduces the time involved in properly positioning a lap/shoulder belt restraint on the wheelchair passenger while reducing intrusion into the passenger's personal space. However, according to Bob Joseph, Q'Straint VP of Business Development, "use of a crashworthy wheelchair-anchored belt places higher loading on the wheelchair tie-down/securement system by as much as 60 percent." According to Joseph, "The QRT-360 is an innovative new design that withstands the higher loads that will be required of wheelchair tie-downs by the new WC18 standard in a little more than two years."