legs crushed after propping feet on dashboard
Brittany Hambleton
Brittany Hambleton
July 1, 2024 ·  6 min read

Woman’s hips are crushed in a crash after she propped her feet up on the dashboard

For many, hopping into the passenger seat of the car and throwing their feet up on the dashboard is as natural as closing the door before they drive away. While this may seem insignificant, one woman in the UK learned the excruciatingly hard way just how catastrophic this habit can be.

An Example to Many

Sergeant Ian Price, of Dyfed–Powys Police in Wales is sharing the horrifying X-ray images of a young woman’s hips that were crushed in an accident to warn others of the dangers of putting their feet up on the dashboard [1].

The injuries, which involve one broken hip and one that is completely dislocated are being described as “life-changing”, and the images are garnering a lot of attention on Facebook. Many people are commenting, saying that they have sat like that countless times, but will never do it again.

“If you see your passenger doing it stop driving and show them this,” said Price [1].

This is not the first time a case like this has made headlines. In 2015, a woman in Walker County, Georgia, broke her nose, ankle, femur, and arm, when the airbag went off while she had her feet up on the dash. Even two years later, the mother of three was still facing many challenges.

“I can’t do my career as an EMS. I can’t lift patients anymore,” she explained. “I can’t stand more than 4 hours at a time. Once I’m at that 4-hour mark I’m in tears.” [2]

Despite her husband warning her of the danger, Audra Tatum thought she could get her foot down in time should anything happen. She learned the hard way that she couldn’t and hopes that her story will prevent others from making the same mistake.

“I keep telling everybody, you don’t want this life,” she said. “You don’t want the pain and agony every day.” [2]

The Chattanooga Police Department shared Tatum’s story, which has been shared more than sixteen hundred times.

“Airbags deploy between 100 and 220 MPH. If you ride with your feet on the dash and you’re involved in an accident, the airbag may send your knees through your eye sockets,”[2]

Read: 14-Year Old Girl Invents A Way for Drivers to See Through Blindspots

There is More Than One Wrong Way to Sit in a Car

Modern cars are designed to keep you safe in the event of a crash, but many of these measures that have been put in place are only effective if you are sitting correctly. Here is how not to sit in a car:

Improper Seat Belt Use

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for people aged three to 34. Research from 2008 found that 45 percent of people who were killed during daytime hours in a vehicle crash were not wearing their seatbelt. At night, that number jumped to 64 percent [3].

The importance of wearing a seatbelt is undeniable, but how you wear the seatbelt is equally as important. Many people prefer to wear the shoulder harness under the arm or behind the back, but this could result in internal injuries such as lacerations of the liver, spleen, intestines, mesentery, diaphragm, and aorta, and could cause serious spine injury [4].

Feet on the Dash

Although this one has already been mentioned, it is worth bringing up again. A quick Google search will find you countless horror stories of people who have experienced life-changing injuries in car accidents, all of which could have been prevented had they not had their feet on the dashboard.

The main reason for this is because of the airbag. Airbags are an integral part of your car’s safety features but can cause significant damage if you’re not careful. This is because in the event of a crash, the airbag will deploy at a speed of two hundred miles per hour (about 320 kilometers per hour) [5]. It is recommended that you be at least ten inches away from the airbag when it deploys to avoid serious injury.

Improperly Installed Car Seats

According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA), nearly sixty percent of car seats are installed incorrectly, and 37 percent of children who were killed in a car crash were improperly restrained [6].

Child deaths in car accidents have been declining since the 1970s, thanks to better car seat technology and improved awareness and education surrounding car seats, but vehicle deaths still account for more than one in four deaths in children .

Pet Sitting on Your Lap

Having your dog sit on your lap, or even in the passenger seat next to you, while you’re driving is putting its life at risk. In the event of an accident, your pet could be thrown through the windshield, or be crushed by the airbag [8].

Additionally, while there are no real statistics to tell us exactly how many accidents have been caused by pet riding on the driver’s lap, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety warns that taking your eyes off the road for even two seconds doubles your chances of getting in an accident [9]. 

Sitting to Look “Stylish”

If you like to sit with your seat reclined as far back as it will go with one arm extended straight out onto the steering wheel because you think it looks “cool”, you may want to reconsider. In the event that you have to make a sudden maneuver to avoid a collision, improper posture will leave you with less control over the steering wheel, gas, brake, and clutch if you’re driving a standard vehicle. Leaning too far back in your seat will also restrict your peripheral vision, and put you at greater risk for a car accident [10].

How to Sit Properly in a Car

So what is the correct way to sit in a car? There are several things to consider when you get behind the wheel to ensure maximum safety.

Your head. The headrest should line up with the top of your head or at least the top of your ears. There should never be more than four inches between the back of your head and the headrest- if there is, you’re leaning too far forward. The lap belt should be low enough that it hugs your hip bones, not the softer part of your abdomen.

Your Seatbelt. The seatbelt should be secure with little to no slack and should run across the center of your left collarbone.

Your posture. You should be sitting up straight in the center of your chair to ensure your body is in line with the airbags. 

Your seat height. You should be able to easily see the cars in front of you. If not, you should raise your seat up.

Your feet. Your feet should easily reach the pedals so you can easily and quickly hit the breaks if need be.

Your steering wheel. You know your steering wheel is in the correct position when you can easily rest your wrist on top of the wheel.

Your hands. Your hands should be placed at the nine o’clock and three o’clock position on the steering wheel with a slight arm bend to allow for more control. It will also lessen the likelihood that you will break your arm in the event of an accident.

Your chest. You should always maintain a distance of ten inches from your chest to the steering wheel. This will protect you from serious injury should the airbag deploy [11].

Take Your Safety Seriously

As the young woman from Wales and Audra Tatum from Georgia learned, how you sit in a car can be the difference between walking away from a car accident, or never walking the same way again. These simple adjustments to the way you sit in your car are quick to implement and could save you from life-altering injuries.

Tatum, who is still recovering from her accident, hopes that her story will save others from a similar fate:

“If I can save one person from doing this and they’re not going through it, that would be wonderful,” [2].

Sources

  1. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7924629/Womans-hips-crushed-crash-propped-feet-dashboard.html
  2. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/after-painful-crash-mom-warns-passengers-to-keep-feet-off-of-the-dashboard/
  3. https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/seatbeltuse.pdf
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3612840
  5. https://www.carsdirect.com/car-safety/how-does-your-cars-airbag-system-work
  6. https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats
  7. https://www.tripswithpets.com/twp-blog/unsafe-and-illegal-driving-with-pets-on-laps
  8. https://www.consumerreports.org/car-safety/right-way-to-sit-behind-the-wheel-of-a-car/