Researchers find optimal distance to sit from steering wheel

The closer you sit to an airbag increases the risk of injuries

By Alayna Jones - Intern
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - In the blink of an eye, air bags are deployed at full force to protect you. New evidence states having shorter legs could put you at higher risk for injury. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (IIHS) states the closer you sit to an airbag could cause more injuries in car crash, according to WVIR

Becky Mueller, a research engineer with the IIHS said that you should sit at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel to be fully protected, which is roughly the distance between your wrist and elbow. Anything within three inches of that could increase the risk of injuries to your upper body. 

If you have tried moving your seat back, but still can't reach the pedals, the IIHS recommends moving the seat forward and then reclining it slightly. 

“People can certainly be injured by airbags or sustain abrasions, but they can also bottom out an airbag which means just go through it and hit the steering wheel,” said Dr. Thomas Hartka, an assistant professor of emergency medicine with the University of Virginia Health System.

Airbags in newer cars are now optimzed to protect all different-sized people. They can determine how much pressure is needed to provide optimal crash protection by sensing how your seatbelt is positioned and your weight. 

Hartka says that fragile elderly people don't sustain as many serious injuries in high speed collisions as vehicles become safer every year. 

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