Comfort that could kill you

Common accessories you use to make yourself comfortable when you drive may increase your chance of injury during a crash.

Researchers at the Transurban Road Safety Centre at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) tested accessories such as the ones some drivers use to sit on, or place between their back and the seat, such as seat base cushions, seat back cushions, back support or head-rest cushions. After running 130 crash test simulations, they found that many may increase your risk of serious injury.

“Around a quarter of older drivers use an aftermarket accessory to improve their comfort. But these products often have not been tested for safety,” said Associate Professor Julie Brown, the Joint Director of the Transurban Road Safety Centre at NeuRA.

People over 65 are already nine times more likely to be seriously injured during a car accident. Chest injuries are the primary cause of death for older drivers, with poorly positioned seatbelts increasing the risk of such injuries. Testing proved that comfort accessories further “change the geometry of a seatbelt or the posture of a driver could increase the chance of these chest injuries in a crash” said Assoc. Prof. Brown.

“Our findings demonstrate the need to provide better guidance for older drivers on how to both be comfortable and safe while behind the wheel. Currently there is nowhere for people to go to get information about how to safely use these accessories,” she said.

She recommends drivers check whether seats can be adjusted before using an accessory.

“If a driver can adjust their seat instead of sitting on a cushion or placing something behind their back, it will likely be much safer,” she said.

Transurban Road Safety Centre will present their findings to clinicians, motor vehicle safety experts and older drivers in order to develop a set of safety recommendations on how to correctly use comfort accessories in cars, as well as which ones not to use.

Do you use car comfort accessories?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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