You are at risk of serious facial injuries if your feet are on the dashboard during a car crash

31 July 2019
What was claimed

If you are in a car accident when you have your feet on the dashboard, you may send your knees through your eye sockets if the airbag is deployed.

Our verdict

Car accident victims who had their feet on the dashboard have suffered serious facial injuries.

Please note that some of the articles linked to from this fact check contain images of injuries that some may find distressing.

An image that claims police are warning people not to put their feet on car dashboards as deployed airbags could force their knees through their eye sockets has been shared hundreds of times across social media.

The text on the image reads:

Airbags deploy between 100 & 220 MPH. If you ride with your feet on the dash, you may send your knees through your eye sockets if the airbag is deployed. Police are sharing this photo in hopes of spreading awareness of safety while driving.

It is true that airbags deploy at around 160mph. The force of airbags themselves has been shown to cause eye injuries.

This message has been shared by a number of emergency services’ social media accounts, although the photo does not originate from them. 

The post was originally created by Drive Arrive, a UK chauffeur service company. Colin Bennet, who owns the company, said in a blog post that he staged the image to warn people of the dangers of passengers putting their feet on the dash, having seen passengers in his chauffeured cars doing so. 

He wrote: “One summer in my capacity as a fire service photographer and videographer I attended a minor road traffic collision involving a car containing a mother who was driving her daughter who sadly had her feet on the dash. Even at the low speed the airbags deployed and caused 'very' serious injuries to the young girl who was using her phone at the time, much like in the image”.

Mr Bennet told Full Fact that he did not ever say that airbags could cause someone’s knees to go into their eyes.

This part of the claim appears to have originated with Shane O’Connor, a road safety strategist. Mr O’Connor directed Full Fact to a story from 2015 about a young woman who was involved in a car crash while her seat was reclined and her feet were on the dashboard. The article says that when the airbag inflated it hit her thighs, driving her knees into her face leaving her left eye socket, cheekbone and nose broken.

There have been other documented instances where people have been injured after being involved in collisions while their feet were on the dashboard. In 2015, a woman in the US was involved in a crash and her airbag deployed while her legs were crossed and her foot was on the dashboard. Her foot broke her nose, and her ankle, femur and arm were also broken. A woman in Ireland had to have her forehead reconstructed after a similar incident in 2006. 

TV show MythBusters tested the scenario using synthetic human cadavers and concluded that placing your feet on or against a car’s dashboard could lead to extensive injuries and broken bones in a collision.

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