ASK A COP — What road rules are motorized wheelchairs to follow?
Published 9:54 am Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Felicia from Port Arthur asks: I was traveling on 9th Avenue and a lady in one of the motorized wheelchairs just crossed the side street without stopping for her vehicle. I was shaken up knowing if my attention had been diverted away from the road for a moment, I could have hit the lady in the wheelchair. I’m concerned about the charges someone may get if they hit a person in a motorized wheelchair. What is the charge for hitting someone that’s on a motorized wheelchair?
Answer: The motorized wheelchairs have liberated many disabled persons who were bound in their homes, but along with that liberation came tragedy. Persons who were given or purchased the motorized wheelchairs are apparently NOT given the law when operating the chair. In the state of Texas, any person operating a motorized wheelchair is considered a pedestrian. Meaning all the laws set forth for pedestrians apply to motorized wheelchair operators (i.e. if there’s a sidewalk, you must be on the sidewalk or when on the road, you MUST travel against the flow of traffic). There’s no automatic charge for a driver involved in a crash with a motorized wheelchair. The police officer on the scene will determine that at the conclusion of the investigation. The way you described the incident, you would NOT be at fault.
Mark from Port Neches asks: I tend to ride my motorcycle every chance I get when the weather is nice. Sometimes I’m stuck at a red light for quite a long time, often until a car pulls up behind me to trip the signal if it isn’t simply a timed light. I was told during a motorcycle course there was a law that would allow motorcyclist to treat a red light like a stop sign in the event the light has fully cycled without the bike tripping the switch for the light. Is this really allowed or was I misinformed?
Answer: You obviously DID NOT take this course in Texas, did you? If you did, “YES” you were given some very BAD information about how to handle a traffic light that won’t change on a motorcycle. The ONLY person in Texas that can wave you legally through a RED traffic signal is a police officer. No, you cannot take it upon yourself just to go through the light because it didn’t change, especially on a motorcycle. So NEVER run a red traffic light unless instructed to do so by a police officer!
Clinton from Port Arthur asks: I am recently retired and have a part time job where I am the caretaker of a disabled client. My client was injured in a car wreck and cannot walk because he no longer has the use of his legs and is confined to a wheelchair. When I take him on our outings, I use my car because he no longer has a car. I am not disabled so I don’t have a disabled parking sign in my vehicle, and because my client doesn’t drive, he does not have a disabled sign to hang on the review mirror. It’s obvious he is disabled and in a wheelchair. I don’t think anyone would have a problem if they saw us getting out of the car, because I push him in his wheelchair. Is it OK for us to park in the handicapped space knowing my client is handicapped and confined to a wheelchair even though we don’t have the sign?
Answer: Sorry to hear of your client’s injury sustained in a motor vehicle crash. One of the missions of the traffic enforcement unit is to prevent injury. I understand the position you explained with your client and the disabled parking. This is actually a cut and dry answer. NO, you canNOT park in a disabled parking spot even though your client/passenger is in a wheelchair. The next doctor visit your client goes to, instruct him to request a disabled parking privilege from his doctor. Next, you will go to the department of motor vehicles and they will issue your client a BLUE disabled parking placard. You are NOT allowed by law to park in a disabled spot UNTIL you have permission by the state to do so, even with your passenger being disabled. I’m sure many readers’ hearts, as well as mine, go out to you, but the LAW is the LAW. Either you can park close and unload your passenger, then go park your vehicle in a regular spot and rejoin your client or you can park in a regular spot and unload your client and push him to the place of your choice. Once you get the placard, ONLY hang it up on the rear view mirror when parking. It’s NOT FOR DRIVING. The disable placard is for PARKING privileges, not DRIVING privileges! I encourage everyone to take time and read the back of the placard. On the fourth line it clearly instructs the owner of the placard saying: DO NOT drive this vehicle with the placard hanging from the rear view mirror.
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