My friend recently broke her nose and wrist after her airbag deployed in a minor accident. How can I prevent this in my own car?

Airbags have been one of the most innovative safety designs in the auto industry, saving lives and preventing serious injuries in the hundreds of thousands of deployments in car accidents since their inception.

Over time, airbags have only grown increasingly more capable and “smart,” having multi-stage deployments that only inflate according to the intensity of the crash. This has prevented many unnecessary injuries related to over-powered airbags in moderate crashes, but there is still one area where airbags can cause unintentional injuries.

Airbags are generally designed for the averaged-sized adult—about 5 feet, 9 inches tall. People of this height are usually able to sit at least a foot away from the airbag cover, and receive the maximum amount of protection from the bag’s inflation. Shorter people, however, may be at an elevated risk of injury from the bag itself.

As the driver of a vehicle, make sure that your sternum is a minimum of about 10 inches from the center of the steering wheel, which will allow the bag room and time to inflate prior to your impact. As a passenger, sit as far back from the airbag compartment as possible, and remember—children under the age of 13 should never ride in the front seat. If the situation is unavoidable, make sure that the airbag on the passenger side is switched to the “OFF” position, which may require a manual setting.

For drivers of all sizes, forget what you learned about your hand placement being at 10 and 2 o’clock on the steering wheel, and break any bad habits that have your hand at the 12 o’clock position. If the airbag were to inflate with your hands on the upper half of the wheel, your arms may be thrown up into the ceiling, which could cause serious injury. Always drive with your hands at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions.

Airbags Love Teamwork

While airbags can save lives in the event of an accident, airbags are part of a very important partnership. Wearing your seatbelt is still one of the best ways to protect yourself in the event of a crash, and the airbags are just the icing on top of the safety cake—so buckle up!