The Terrifying Reason You Should Never, Ever Put Your Feet On The Dashboard

by Eliza Castile

Prepare to retroactively regret every road trip you've ever taken, because the story of what happens when your feet are on the dashboard during a car accident is spine-tinglingly, bowel-clenchingly horrifying. I'll be the first to admit that car seats are uncomfortable, and no matter how many positions you contort yourself into, long car rides usually end with your feet propped up on the ever-so-convenient dashboard in front of you. But there's a reason your parents always told you to take them down: Dashboards happen to house airbags. In the event of a collision, airbags deploy at more than 100 miles per hour, regardless of the placement of your feet. You can see how this could end poorly.

While most people might intellectually understand this, one woman is sharing her story about leaving her feet on the dashboard to illustrate just how devastating the consequences can be. According to USA Today, two years ago, Audra Tatum and her husband were on the way to pick up their children when they were involved in a car accident. Almost everyone was able to walk away, but Tatum's position — legs crossed with one foot on the dashboard — left her terribly injured.

When the cars collided, Tatum wasn't able to put her foot down in time. The airbag deployed so quickly, it sent her foot straight into her face, breaking her nose. "I was looking at the bottom of my foot facing up at me," she told CBS News.

The impact broke her right ankle, femur, and arm as well. After numerous surgeries and weeks of physical therapy, she was able to walk again, but she still feels the effects of the accident to this day. Tatum told CBS that she walks with a limp, and her inability to stand for more than four hours at a time has affected her job performance. (Airbags may have the potential to cause injury, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that they saved more than 2,500 lives in 2015.)

Two years later, in early August, the Chattanooga Fire Department in Tennessee posted on Facebook about the perils of riding with your feet on the dash, warning that airbags "may send your knees through your eye sockets." Soon, Tatum commented on this post with a description of her own experience:

"My foot was on the dash. The air bag went off... my foot broke my nose. Nose broke ankle. Femur broke into 4 pieces. And arm broke trying to stop impact. I have so many screws and Rods and I am miserable to this day!!! ... I am disabled at 31 years old from this. No one else was hurt. Just me. I lost my career and all from that day."

Her comment caught the attention of local reporters, and on Monday, the fire department shared a link to Tatum's story on their Facebook page. Since then, she has been interviewed by news outlets across the world. She even set up a GoFundMe page to help her "advocate [her] warning."

So next time you're squirming around in the car, think twice — no, three times — about putting your feet anywhere but the floor. Passenger seats are uncomfortable, but broken bones are much worse.