Enhancing the appearance of a steering wheel can add excitement to an otherwise dreary commute, and the internet provides countless options. From fuzzy steering wheel covers and diamond-like stickers to embroidered flowers and steering wheel trays for electronic devices and food, there is no shortage of choices available online.
However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently cautioned that seemingly harmless decorations could lead to serious injuries in the event of a crash.
In a consumer alert issued on Monday, the agency advised against placing decorative emblem decals on steering wheels, warning that they could become hazardous projectiles in a crash if an airbag deploys.
These decorations, such as rhinestones, are typically not provided by the car manufacturer and are made of metal or plastic with an adhesive back, making them potentially dangerous in a crash, according to the agency.
Drivers with such decorations on their steering wheels were urged to remove them following the traffic safety administration’s warning. The agency cited a case in which a driver lost vision in one eye after a rhinestone decal dislodged from the steering wheel during a crash.
While the frequency of such accidents is not specified, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Highway Administration did not immediately address requests for comments concerning incidents involving decorated steering wheels.
Joe Young of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety emphasized the importance of keeping areas where airbags deploy clear, citing the considerable energy with which airbags deploy in modern vehicles.
The Institute also advises against using seat and dash covers from secondary markets, as they may obstruct or redirect airbags during a crash.
The traffic safety administration noted that while many vehicles have emblems with the maker’s logo over the center of the steering wheel, these emblems are typically permanently affixed. However, there have been cases where these emblems have also posed a danger.
Earlier this year, Nissan issued a recall for vehicles with old and cracked emblems over the driver’s side airbag cover, warning that they could become projectiles when the airbag deploys.
The traffic safety administration emphasized the rapid deployment and potential for serious or fatal injuries caused by airbags, with the most common injuries being minor cuts and bruises, according to the Connecticut Department of Transportation.