Have you ever been in a car crash and the airbags deployed? I asked my car insurance lady this and she absolutely shuddered and said she hoped she never experienced it. I thought I would share my own personal experience with you.
I was 26 at the time, and I was driving home after having what I thought was a really great meeting regarding potential sponsorship on my racecar. I was heading north, doing the speed limit and at the last second I saw this car in my peripheral vision, but it was too late. He hit my left front fender and sent me spinning through the intersection. Fortunately, I didn’t have any contact with anyone else. When I came to stop it took me a moment to realize that the airbags had deployed and really the only way I knew was that was that could smell the residue from what smelled like a gunshot. (the teen driving the car who hit me told me he thought his light had turned green when in fact it was still fully red.)
Airbags can cause a lot of harm if they aren’t respected. Without getting into all of the technical aspects, this bag in our steering wheel or the dash is meant to inflate and deflate in under half a second and you are meant to come in contact with it as it is deflating. There are also what are known as smart airbags but either way they are intended to come out very quickly. In some cases 200-300km/hr.
When I talk about respecting the airbags, this is what I mean - I am specifically talking about the driver. Have you ever seen someone driving with one hand at 12 o’clock on the steering wheel? Have you seen someone with their hand inside the steering wheel when they are waiting to make a left hand turn? Have you seen someone driving with their dog on their lap, or even reading a book while they are driving in rush hour? In all of these cases, the driver is putting something - an arm, a dog, a book - between the airbag and their upper body - and this is how facial injuries happen to people when they are in crashes. For the airbag to deploy effectively, it needs 10 inches. Your hand position on the steering wheel should be always at 9 and 3 so that your hands will be blown away from your face should you have a crash. People who wear glasses and have poor hand position on the steering wheel often get more facial injuries from their hands coming back and smacking or breaking their glasses and perhaps their nose.
Let’s face it, no one gets up in the morning and says “oh, I think I’ll have a crash today” but crashes happen all the time. So as drivers, I urge you to practice good habits with regard to the steering wheel, and respect those airbags!
Race car driver, educator, safety advocate, TV personality, Kelly Williams started racing cars at 17 years old and continued to race for 15 years. Now she works in the automotive industry, teaching women about taking care of their vehicles. She also teaches performance driver training with BMW as well as other manufacturers, keeps busy as a spokesperson for Be Car Care Aware, hosts ladies' Car Care clinics across Canada, and has recently launched a new consumer website www.KellysGarage.ca
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