Question: I spend a fair amount of time on the highway and often see passengers in vehicles with their feet on the dash. How can their seat belts be in the proper location to do their job? What would happen in the case of an air bag deployment?
Answer: There is no law that prohibits a passenger from placing their feet on the dashboard while the vehicle is in motion.
However, passengers who put their feet up in a moving vehicle could be putting themselves at even greater risk of injury in the event of a crash. It comes down to using good judgement. I would bet that most passengers never think about what could happen to them in the event of a collision when the airbags deploy.
Airbags are designed to cushion the head and chest of an adult passenger sitting in an upright position when wearing a correctly fitted seatbelt. If the passenger is sitting incorrectly, there is a greater risk of injury in a crash. This could result in their knees being forced into their chest or face that could cause a serious injury or death. There is also a risk of leg fractures or spinal injuries.
Below are some recommendations and information on airbag safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
• When there is a moderate to severe crash, a signal is sent from the air bag system's electronic control unit to the inflator within the air bag module.
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• An igniter in the inflator starts a chemical reaction that produces a harmless gas, which inflates the air bag within the blink of an eye - or less than 1/20th of a second.
• Side-impact air bags inflate even more quickly since there is less space between the occupant and the striking object, such as the interior of the vehicle, another vehicle, a tree, or a pole.
• Because air bags deploy very rapidly, serious or sometimes fatal injuries can occur if the occupant is too close to - or is in direct contact with - the air bag when it first begins to deploy.
• Sitting as far back from the steering wheel or dashboard as possible and using seat belts help prevent occupants from being "too close" to a deploying frontal air bag.
I highly recommend that you do not place your feet on the dashboard while the vehicle is in motion.
If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848. (Or reach him at, Troy.Christianson@state.mn.us) Twitter: MSPPIO_SOUTH