Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reclined seat makes deadly catapult

Reprinted from article appearing on, by Jill McIntosh, see original article and comments by clicking here.

Always sit up straight. My mother drilled that into me when I was little, because it was considered good manners at the dinner table. In a vehicle, you need to do it because it can save your life.

Airbags and seatbelts affect what happens to occupants in a crash, and what they do depends on how you’re sitting. If you’re in the wrong position, they can be dangerous or even deadly.

In a recent U.S. decision, a jury awarded $1.8 million in damages against Hyundai when a young woman was ejected from a vehicle in a crash and killed. She’d been wearing her seatbelt, but had reclined the front passenger seat all the way back to take a nap, and she slid out from under the belt in the impact.

Sitting up straight not only keeps you in the seat, but it properly positions the belt over the strong bones in your shoulders and hips, which can take the impact. If you slip the shoulder belt under your arm, as many people do, it puts the belt over your weaker ribs, creating the potential for internal injuries.

The seatbelt also helps you to withstand the explosive force of the airbags. Many people don’t know how airbags work, because they’ve only seen them as fluffy pillows played for comic effect in movies, or slowly unfolding in crash-test videos. Those test films are extreme slow-motion: the bags inflate and deflate in milliseconds, so fast that you can’t see them otherwise (roll-sensing curtain airbags deploy just as quickly, but stay inflated for several seconds).

Those rock-hard bags are coming toward you at some 300 km/h. They’ll break your arm if you hold the wheel underhanded on a turn; they’ll kill a dog sitting on your lap; and if you’re dumb enough to ride with your feet up on the dash, the doctor will first extract your femur bone out of what’s left of your pelvis, and then probably tell you that you’ll never walk properly again.

It’s just as important to sit properly in the back seat. Even if there are no airbags back there, sitting correctly with the seatbelt on prevents being thrown around in a collision. If back-seat passengers aren’t belted in, they can be hurled forward with enough force to cause serious injuries when they collide with front-seat passengers.

It’s especially important to ensure that children are in the correct positions, whether they’re in carriers, booster seats, or are old enough to wear a seatbelt alone. Child seats can be difficult to install properly; if you’re not sure, you can call Toronto Police Services at 416-808-1975 to ask about having yours inspected.

Most people never read the owner’s manual that comes with the vehicle, but every one includes a section on proper seating positions and seatbelt use. Depending on your vehicle, there can be airbags over the side windows, in the sides of the front or rear seats, and even under the dash to protect your knees. Find out where they’re located and what you need to do so that they help instead of harm you.

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