Project: Stability and Seating Needs for the Disabled Driver

Reference: UG461

Last update: 10/08/2005 15:16:51


The objective of the research is to establish how the performance of disabled drivers can be improved by suitable seating considerations and to produce guidelines on the prescription of appropriate seating modifications to ensure the stability of the disabled driver.

It specifically explores:
- how forces acting on the body during normal driving are changed through the use of adaptive driving controls
- how forces are affected by altered posture, balance etc related to physical disability
- the effects of these on driving performance
- the impact of seating modifications on the disabled driver


Within driving it is acknowledged that maintaining stability, comfort and safety is important for obtaining maximum performance. However, for the disabled driver, the car seat may provide inadequate support. This project aims to explore how the forces acting on the body during normal driving are changed through the use of adaptive driving controls, and how they are affected by altered posture, balance, etc related to physical disability. The project will produce guidelines on the assessment of stability, postural support and comfort within the car and on finding solutions to improve the driving performance and therefore safety of people with physical difficulties, including those required to drive from the wheelchair. The project began in November 2002 and will be completed in March 2004.


ICE Ergonomics
Holywell Building, Holywell Way, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 3UZ
+44 (0)1509 283300

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £196,696.00

Actual start date: 28 October 2002

Actual completion date: 31 January 2005

Summary of results

  1. The research showed that disabled drivers demonstrate the same driving performance as non-disabled drivers in the tasks tested, but that they do so with greater levels of exertion and greater possibility of fatigue. For all drivers, - disabled and non-disabled, seating modifications improved the speed and performance on the driving tasks, but the type of modification which best suited the driver varied, depending on the disability, and therefore on the type of driving control used. While modifications had an impact on performance, and had a large impact on effort and levels of fatigue, discomfort was identified as an issue that would dissuade people from using some of the modifications. Restricted access to the vehicle was also a limitation of the modifications. Although there were only two wheelchair drivers involved at any stage in the study, and findings have to be viewed with caution, because their seating needs had been addressed during vehicle adaptation, there was no difference in exertion and fatigue level, as measured in the subjective questionnaire, between them and non-disabled drivers. The report was used to produce draft guidelines of different levels - a) for the disabled driver, b) for the vehicle adaptation company and c) for driver assessment personnel. These draft guidelines have been reviewed by the driver assessment personnel and comments incorporated into the guidelines. The guidelines now need to be taken a stage further and evaluated objectively.