Last month, we covered the importance of your car seat’s head restraint for preventing whiplash. This month, let’s discuss additional measures one can take…
AIRBAGS: In addition to a correctly positioned head restraint, having a vehicle that is equipped with airbags has been described as “essential in the prevention of injuries and/or death,” especially in frontal or head-on collisions. Airbags are inflatable devices that fill up in a fraction of a second during a serious motor vehicle collision (MVC). Depending on the year, make, and model of your vehicle, airbags are located in the front of the steering column, by the glove compartment on the passenger side, and possibly in the doors and/or in the column between the doors. These offer additional protection that seatbelts alone cannot provide and can prevent the head and chest from striking the steering wheel, dashboard, or the door in the case of side-impact airbags. The front airbags typically do not deploy in rear or side impact collisions whereas the side airbags will deploy in side impacts and rollovers, thus providing protection between the occupants and doors, side windows, and roof. In order to maximize your protection from injury in a front-end collision, make sure you do the following each time you get into your vehicle: 1) always wear both your lap and shoulder seat belts as airbags are designed to work WITH the lap/shoulder belt system; 2) maintain a safe distance between you and the driver’s side airbag of at least 10 inches / 25 centimeters (if you’re too close, you risk making contact with the airbag as it inflates which can cause abrasions and bruising); 3) position the steering wheel towards your chest (not your head or neck); 4) move the passenger seat back as far as possible because of the greater distance/larger airbag that exists between the passenger and dashboard; 5) make sure passengers avoid putting their feet up on the dash or placing any objects between their body and the dashboard.
SEAT BELTS: It has been estimated that in Canada alone, if all drivers and passengers wore their seat belts, 300 road fatalities could be avoided each year! Seat belts have always been considered the BEST way to protect against injury or death in a car crash. These typically cross the lap and chest and prevent the occupant from being ejected or thrown about inside the vehicle in an accident. Here are some important points to remember: 1) wear a lap/shoulder belt system whenever possible; 2) sit up straight, positioning the lap belt low over the pelvic bones/hips, NOT over the stomach; 3) place the shoulder harness over the shoulder, across the chest, and NEVER place the belt under the arm or behind the back; 4) all occupants must wear a seat belt regardless if the vehicle is moving or not; and 5) a pregnant occupant should place the lap belt over the pelvic bones below the baby, not over or above the stomach/baby.
ANTI-LOCK BRAKE SYSTEMS (ABS): Here, electronic controls stop your wheels from locking up when the brake pedal is forcibly pressed to help the driver maintain control on rough, wet, and slippery surfaces. This helps prevent skidding and can result in a shorter stopping distance. An ABS can also help drivers more safely steer around what they’re heading towards while allowing for maximum braking pressure. Tips include: 1) HOLD / DON’T PUMP the brake pedal firmly; 2) keep steering around objects while fully braking; 3) DO NOT expect the braking distance to be shorter; 4) have the ABS inspected at the recommended number of miles noted in your vehicle’s manual; and 5) MOST IMPORTANT, stay a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead of you – NO TAILGAITING!