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Cars for Disabled May Get Changes

September 23, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Vehicles modified for people with disabilities would be exempt from some federal safety standards under a proposal announced by the government Wednesday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed the proposal, which aims to balance safety requirements while allowing for modifications needed to enable disabled persons to use cars, trucks and vans.

``Our transportation system for the 21st century must be inclusive in service,″ Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said. ``This proposal balances the safety and mobility goals for people with disabilities.″

For example, a car in which the seat belt position must be changed would be exempted from the standard side impact crash test used on vehicles. Vehicles that require a structural change to or removal of the original steering shaft would be exempted from standard tests that make sure the steering wheel does not move by a certain amount.

Cars would also be exempted from some occupant crash protection requirements, if other seat belt and anchorage standards are met.

Federal law prohibits businesses from removing or altering original equipment manufacturers have installed to comply with federal motor vehicle safety standards. But that law sometimes interferes with modifications that are needed for people with disabilities, the NHTSA said.

The agency is seeking public comment before making the rule final.

The government estimates that 383,000 vehicles on the road are modified for people with disabilities.

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