Airbags and seatbelts are both designed to keep us safer in the event of a car accident. While seatbelts restrain passengers and drivers from being ejected from the vehicle through the glass, airbags reduce the likelihood that the head or upper body hit the interior of the vehicle in the event of a crash. Both devices reduce injuries when used correctly.
What you might not realize is that the steering wheel should be angled towards the driver’s chest. According to the AAA website, “In many vehicles, an adjustment lever on the underside of the steering column permits drivers to properly position it for better steering wheel angle and height.” It is very important to adjust the tilt of the steering column to face the chest of each driver of the vehicle.
Proper alignment with the steering wheel helps ensure that, when activated, the airbag hits the driver’s chest. If the steering wheel is aimed at the head, the head will take the brunt of the 200mph airbag impact, possibly breaking the driver’s neck. Having the wheel at the right angle is encouraged by the National Motorists Association, whose website warns: “Sit 10 inches away from the airbag cover and make sure your steering wheel is tilted towards your chest—not your head or stomach. This is particularly important for short drivers, pregnant drivers and heavy-set drivers.” For these same reasons, never allow a child under the age of 12 to sit in the front seat: if the passenger side airbag strikes his or her head during an accident, it could result in a serious or fatal injury.
As mentioned above, another very important safety tip regarding driver’s side airbags is to sit far enough back from the steering wheel. Many people don’t realize that sitting closer than 10 inches to the steering wheel can result in very serious injuries if the airbag ejects. Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Sitting as far back from the steering wheel or dashboard as possible and using seat belts help prevent occupants from being “too close” to a deploying frontal air bag.”
Stay safe. Please follow this good advice and sit at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel while driving and make sure to adjust your steering wheel before you hit the road.