In days of old, train passengers were warned against leaning out of the window, with a generation aware of the risk of decapitation from a passing locomotive, a fearful possibility, but one which is also very much a risk when it comes to travelling by car.
Not just the head of course, but all extremities such as arms and legs should be kept inside the protective shell of the vehicle. As the weather starts to get hotter it may be tempting to relax into the false sense of security that summer cruising might suggest, but sticking your head, arms or legs out of the window is not a very good idea.
There are countless documented cases of motorists suffering serious injury when “clipped” by a passing car, as well as the more gruesome stories of the loss of limbs in the event of a crash. Having an arm out of the window also poses a risk to other road users such as cyclists and motorcyclists. Being able to put your head out of the window implies that the seatbelt is not worn correctly. If your body parts are not within the safety cage of the vehicle, then you are at risk and are risking others.
Arms extended from the vehicle may also confuse other road users who might think that you are giving hand signals, thus posing a risk that those drivers may incorrectly react to what they think you are gesturing. Visibility may also be obscured as a result, blocking the vehicle´s mirrors and making it difficult to observe the vehicle surroundings correctly.
Even within the vehicle there is a serious risk of injury if you are not sitting correctly. An all too common sight in the summer months in particular is a car passenger with their feet up on the dashboard, a practice that is not only illegal, but is extremely dangerous.
In the event of a crash, if a passenger is travelling with their feet up on the dashboard, the injuries that may occur will be very serious, partly as the deployment of the airbag can cause more serious injuries than it prevents in this situation, and, irrespective of an airbag being present, the glass from the windscreen can cause serious injury, not to mention the effects of a passenger being crushed by the impact between the dashboard and the seat.
Proper posture is not only important for avoiding niggles such as back or neck pain, it is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the safety features designed for the vehicle. In fact, all vehicle occupants must always maintain a proper position while riding in the vehicle.
Article 18, Section 1 of Royal Decree 1428/2003 of 21 November, approving the Rules of the road, states that “The driver of a vehicle must maintain their own freedom of movement, the required field of vision and permanent attention to driving, to ensure their own safety, that of other vehicle occupants and other road users. To achieve this, you must take special care to maintain the proper position and that of the passengers, and the proper placement of objects or animals transported so that there can be no interference between the driver and any of them“.
Keeping both hands on the steering wheel, not leaning with an elbow on the window, keeping your arms inside the vehicle may have been the repetitive messages our driving instructor taught us when we first took lessons, but the advice is still very much key to a safe driving experience.