Q: I often see front-seat passengers in vehicles with their feet on the dash. Is there a law that prohibits this? I can’t help but wonder what would happen in the event that the air bags deploy.

A: There is no law that prohibits a passenger from placing their feet on the dashboard while the vehicle is in motion. 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 judgment. Airbags are designed to cushion the head and chest of an adult passenger sitting in an upright position when wearing a correctly fitted seat belt.

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.

Here 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.
  • 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 never place your feet on the dashboard while the vehicle is in motion.

Send your questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota to trooper@duluthnews.com or Sgt. Neil Dickenson – Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth, MN 55811