Passenger safety - Airbags & feet on the dashboard

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feet up in car

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BL Claims Solicitors specialise in personal injury, clinical negligence and travel claims, providing our clients with hands-on support, nationally.

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Have you ever been a passenger in a car with the sun basking down on you, you start to feel a bit hot and sleepy and think you will stretch your legs out on the dashboard?

I've done it and with the recent lovely hot weather we have been having I have seen plenty of other people do it to.  What I didn’t think about whilst I was enjoying my ride in the sun was the effect the airbag may have if it went off whilst my legs were resting on the dashboard.  If I told you that an airbag inflates at about 198mph you wouldn’t want your legs to be in the way when it does would you?

198mph is a little faster than most F1 cars race.  If your feet or legs are on the dash and the airbag inflates it is likely that the airbag will hit your hamstrings and drive your knees into your face.  You could suffer broken eye sockets, cheekbones and nose.  Your feet would likely be broken and compressed resulting in them being smaller than they were before the crash.  Your memory could be lost and the most dangerous injury of all, you could suffer a brain bleed.  It doesn’t make pretty reading does it? Our personal injury team at BL Claims regularly deal with injuries obtained in road traffic accidents and see all manner of injuries from minor to catastrophic, therefore we are passionate about promoting road safety. Take a look at the guidance below regarding airbags to ensure you stay safe on the roads:

Vehicles provide optimal protection when occupants are belted and sitting in the proper position. Drivers and front-seat passengers should sit in the centre of the seat upright against the seatback with feet on the floor. Arms and legs should never be resting against an airbag because the forces of a deploying airbag and the hot gases exhausted by the airbag may cause injury. Women in the late stages of pregnancy may not be able to get their abdomens far away enough from the steering wheel to be safe. They should avoid driving whenever possible.

Areas on or around airbags should be free of objects that can either alter the proper deployment of airbags or become dangerous projectiles within the vehicle. Aftermarket dash covers may block a frontal airbag and seat covers may block a seat-mounted side airbag from proper deployment or redirect the airbag in a way that is dangerous.

Drivers: Drivers should sit with their chests at least 10 inches away from the centre of the steering wheel. For shorter drivers with the seat positioned further forward, this can often be achieved by slightly reclining the seatback. Many newer airbags take into account seating position and deploy with less force if an occupant is sitting close. For drivers of older vehicles who cannot get far enough away from the steering wheel, pedal extenders or an airbag on/off switch may be an option. The government allows installation of switches on vehicles manufactured before Sept. 1, 2015.

Pregnant women: Women in the late stages of pregnancy may not be able to get their abdomens far away enough from the steering wheel to be safe. There can be a risk of foetal injury from a frontal airbag if it inflates. However, without the airbag, there is a risk of foetal injury from hitting the steering wheel. Women in the late stages of pregnancy should avoid driving whenever possible. If they must drive, the combination of properly positioned safety belts and airbags offers the best protection.

Infants and children: How and where infants and children are restrained in a vehicle are critical factors in avoiding airbag-related injuries. Infants, particularly those in rear-facing safety seats, should never sit in the front because this puts an infant's head too close to the frontal airbag. Rear seats are always safest for infants and children. Seventeen states have provisions requiring children of various ages to be seated in the rear. Even if your state's law does not require children to sit in the rear, children 12 and younger should always sit restrained in rear seats.

If an adult is transporting too many children for them all to sit safely and comfortably in the back, the youngest children should ride in the back. When a child does need to ride in the front seat, the seat should be as far back as possible and the child should be securely buckled in a lap/shoulder belt and sitting against the seatback. If a driver routinely has to put a child in the front seat of an older vehicle, an airbag on/off switch may be considered.

Nearly all older children killed by frontal airbags were either unbelted or improperly belted. But even belted children can be at risk if they wiggle out of position or sit on the edge of the seat, putting the head too close to the airbag.

Children should not lean against the door area where the side airbag is stored because the initial deployment force may be harmful. With or without an airbag, children who lean against doors or lie down with their heads near the doors or sides of vehicles are at higher risk of injury in the event of a side impact. All vehicle manufacturers have committed to following a test protocol for designing side airbag systems that assures that the inflation injury risk is low, even for small children who might lie down or assume other positions against a deploying side airbag.

Airbags are designed to save you but you compromise that with incorrect seating positions.  The message is clear - Do not put your feet on the dashboard.


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