Most of us don’t think about the position of our steering wheel when we hop into our car, but did you know that steering wheel position can actually have a big impact on your safety?
- Steering wheel airbags are capable of producing as much as 2,000 pounds of force at a rate of 200 miles per hour
We all know that airbags protect people in an accident; so not many people consider that airbags can actually cause very serious injuries. The greatest risk in sitting too close to the steering wheel involves the deployment of the front airbag.
Sitting too far forward can cause other problems, too. You’re at a much higher risk of being cut by glass from your windshield in an accident if you sit close to your steering wheel. If the front of your car collapses, your steering wheel can even trap you in place.
Steering Wheel Positioning Tips
According to both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it’s optimal for there to be 10 inches or more between a driver and their steering wheel.
- Make sure your steering wheel faces downward; this will minimize serious impact to the chest and face
- Always try adjusting the steering wheel to suit your stature before you move closer to the wheel; you may save your life simply by adjusting the wheel
Taking these two simple steps could be all you need to save your life while you’re driving. Ensure that your steering wheel is never pointed directly at your neck and face—and always make sure that you try to adjust your steering wheel before you adjust your seat.
Driver’s Seat Positioning
A car accident occurs can thrust the driver forward due to an abrupt halt in forward momentum. Drivers who sit too far forward are at an increased risk of hitting their head or chest on the steering wheel.
Extreme instances of crashes like these can cause death, but even a “minor” strike against a steering wheel can cause:
- Internal injuries
- Broken bones
Ensure your driver’s seat is in the correct position relative to your steering wheel.
You should be more comfortable and safer if you:
- Maintain the distance of the base of your seat and only recline the back
- Move your driver’s seat back a little and slightly recline the back
According to the NHTSA, sitting as far back from the steering wheel (or dashboard) as possible is one of the best ways to prevent being too close to a deploying front airbag. It makes good sense: your head and body will be impacted far less by an airbag (or a steering wheel itself) if you aren’t too close.
Some vehicle manufacturers have recognized the severity of the injuries often caused by driver’s seat airbags. Certain vehicle designs are changing to boast more safety for drivers. Some manufacturers have started including adjustable pedals in their cars—drivers can leverage an extra three inches of clutch, gas, and brake pedal length without needing to push their seats up.
More Tips: Frontal Airbag Safety
- Never put a rear-facing car seat in front of an active airbag
- Children under 13 should sit in the back seat to minimize the likelihood of injuries from airbags
- You can buy pedal extenders to help you use your car more easily without inching your seat up
What Should I Do After a Car Accident?
Stay at the Scene of the Accident
Never rush to leave the scene of a car accident. Not only is it a crime, but it won’t help you at all. It’ll be harder to get emergency medical attention (if you need it) and it’ll make it difficult to gather evidence about your case.
If you aren’t sure whether you can leave an accident scene, check to see whether:
- You have filed an accident report with the police
- Everyone else on-scene is safe
Make Sure That Everybody Is Safe
If you are physically okay, you should check to make sure that everyone else who was in the accident is okay too.
Stay still if you are seriously injured—one decent sign is extreme pain in the head, neck, or back.
- Get everyone away from oncoming traffic
- If there’s a risk of fire, don’t stay near vehicles
If you call 911 after your accident, the operator will connect you with the appropriate parties for help. They may send out emergency medical services to check up on everyone, even if you don’t think anyone is severely injured.
The operator will also send out the police to help clean up the scene and take down an accident report.
- Calling 911 doesn’t mean you were involved in a crime; it’s just the best way to reach help quickly
Swap Driver Information
Ask other drivers involved in the accident for their driver information. This includes their driver’s license, insurance information, license plate number, and so on. You can also ask witnesses for their names and contact information for future reference.
There’s a lot of evidence that you can collect at the scene of an accident to help a potential case run more smoothly.
Don’t worry about this if you’re badly injured; but, if you can…
- Take pictures and videos of damage
- Look for nearby evidence of the crash (like skid marks in the road)
- Don’t forget to document your injuries
If the police are already on-scene, don’t forget that part of their job is helping to collect and preserve evidence too. You can ask them for assistance.
Seek Medical Care
Unfortunately, lots of car accidents necessitate immediate and thorough medical care. If you were in more than a minor crash, you may need treatment on-scene (or transportation to a hospital).
Even if you avoided the hospital after your crash, you still need to see a medical professional. Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible after an accident.
This way, you can have a medical professional assess your state.
- You need to visit your doctor if you went to the hospital, too
- Your doctor should always be up-to-date on your condition; this is one easy way to facilitate that
- Your doctor will examine you for signs of delayed or secondary injuries—just in case
Visiting with your doctor after a car accident is a beneficial step. Even if you wind up being okay, you may ask questions about your post-crash experience and confirm that your health is in good standing.
Consult More Than One Legal Professional
It’s easy to consult a car accident lawyer. That’s why we recommend consulting more than one.
- When you talk to more than one attorney, you can hear more than one legal opinion on your potential case
- Reputable attorneys understand your position and will not pressure you to work with them; they will also not get angry if you consult other professionals
These days, virtually every experienced attorney offers free initial consultations. You can take advantage of these to ask questions about your case and learn more about how the legal process might look for you.
Here are some quick reminders:
- The sooner you choose an attorney, the sooner your case can get underway
- We recommend retaining a lawyer before dealing with insurance companies (so that you have a legal professional on your side)
General Airbag Safety
As mentioned above, one of the primary reasons sitting too close to the steering wheel is so dangerous involves a car’s frontal airbags. There’s a lot about airbags that you probably don’t know; and the more educated you are, the better prepared you’ll be to prevent an accident.
Airbags are placed in a variety of spots throughout a vehicle. The exact number and placements of the airbags depend on the specific car.
Some examples of airbag types and positions include:
- Center airbags
- Side curtain airbags
- Curtain shield airbags
- Rear knee airbags
- Seat-mounted curtain airbags
In theory, an airbag should create additional safety for vehicle occupants in the event of a crash. Vehicles are equipped with sensors that deploy airbags upon sudden deceleration.
Airbags Can Have Dangerous Defects
All airbags come with some associated risk. Even the airbag in your steering wheel (and/or dashboard) can present any of these defects:
- Unexpected deployment: Due to short circuits, other malfunctions, or deceleration not associated with an accident
- Airbag debris: These may strike and injure vehicle occupants upon deployment
- Cuts or tears in the airbag: The airbag does not properly deploy
- Airbags that are the wrong size
- Airbags that deploy with force beyond manufacturer specifications
- Failure to deploy
Common Frontal Airbag Injuries
An airbag has the potential to cause a wide range of injuries. Some are more commonly seen than others. For example:
- Eye injuries: Lots of airbags shoot out debris and dust when they deploy; and, even they don’t, an airbag directly to the eye is going to cause an injury
- Head injuries: Head injuries can be very serious—especially if they’re actually brain injuries. People can get concussions just from frontal impact with an airbag. If an airbag fails to deploy, someone could suffer very severe head or neck injuries when they strike the inside of the car
- Neck injuries: Neck injuries are often painful and prove to have long-lasting effects. Very forceful deployments can cause serious neck injuries
- Injuries to the chest or upper extremities: Side airbags can damage the chest and upper extremities when they deploy, but consider what might happen to your chest if you’re sitting too close to your steering wheel when a frontal airbag deploys. You could suffer bruising, internal injuries, and even broken bones
- Facial and neck injuries: Facial and neck injuries are common after airbag deployment; failure to deploy and proper deployment actually both pose these risks
An Attorney Can Help if You Are Injured by an Airbag or Steering Wheel
If you’ve been hurt by an airbag or steering wheel in a car accident, a car accident lawyer can help. Here are the steps you may follow when you partner with an attorney.
Finding the Right Lawyer
Finding the right lawyer can prove tricky, but it shouldn’t be something you’re afraid of. You can leverage free consultations with several different attorneys to find the one that’s right for you.
When you meet with a lawyer, ask them:
- What is your level of experience?
- How many cases like mine have you handled?
- What is your general success rate?
- How do you think my case might play out?
- Who will work on my case?
Investigation and Negotiation
The investigation and negotiation stages of this process are the most involved.
You’ll work together with your lawyer (by providing them with information) to investigate what happened.
- Your lawyer will ask you lots of questions about your accident
- You may need to speak to industry experts (like auto professionals) about what happened
After the investigation phase, you’ll move towards negotiation. This is when your attorney will begin to negotiate for the damages you plan to pursue. For lots of cases, this is the road’s end; settling during negotiation is very common.
Filing a Lawsuit
While most cases do settle without ever entering the court, you should prepare for the potential that yours could become a lawsuit.
When you file a lawsuit, both you and the liable party will have an opportunity to present statements and evidence. Your attorney and the defendant’s attorney can call on witnesses and industry experts to strengthen a case.
This is where many cases settle; but for others, another step is necessary: mediation. When mediation fails, cases move to trial. The length of a trial depends on unique factors that your lawyer can help you through as efficiently as possible.