Why you should never ride with your feet on the dashboard - experts

It's tempting to rest your feet on the dashboard when you're a car passenger on a long trip, but you could end up breaking both your legs. 

If your car has airbags, when the vehicle crashes, they will release from the dashboard, and your legs could be forced against your skull, breaking them in the process. 

It's happened before. According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 1990 to 2008, over 290 passenger deaths were caused by airbag inflation, and the majority of those deaths (80 percent) were because the passengers weren't sitting correctly. 

Airbags "save lives" according to the AA - but only under the right circumstances. Front airbags inflate within eight to 40 milliseconds and side airbags within less than 15 milliseconds. That's faster than you can blink. 

NZ Transport Agency road safety director Harry Wilson says airbags are "very effective at preventing serious injuries" but warns the technology can "also cause injuries if people sit too far forward, or if they do things like put their feet up on the dashboard."

"Airbags are not soft, and they inflate in a split-second after a crash. The front of an airbag moves towards you at between 160km/h to 320km/h, and for this reason passengers should never be tempted to put their feet up on the dashboard," he told Newshub. 

AA's general manager of motoring services Stella Stocks, responsible for the AA's involvement in vehicle safety, also confirmed to Newshub that putting your feet up on the dashboard while a vehicle is in motion is highly dangerous and advises not to do so. 

If your feet are up on the dashboard and the vehicle you're in crashes, there is no way you'd have enough time to pull your legs down before the airbags are inflated. In 2015, a US woman learned this the hard way. 

Audra Tatum, a mother of three from Walker County, Georgia, has faced years of physical obstacles after the car she was in crashed while her feet were up on the dashboard, causing her ankle, femur and arm to brake. 

"The airbag went off, throwing my foot up and breaking my nose," Ms Tatum told CBS News, recalling the harrowing moment she and her husband were involved in a collision. Her husband - who had previously warned her about not putting her feet on the dashboard - walked away from the crash relatively unharmed, but Ms Tatum wasn't so lucky. 

After the crash, she recalled "looking at the bottom of my foot facing up at me."

"Basically, my whole right side was broken, and it's simply because of my ignorance. I'm not Superman. I couldn't put my foot down in time," Ms Tatum told CBS. 

Ms Tatum had to undergo several surgeries following the accident and it reportedly took her over a month to walk again. 

The incident inspired a fire department in Tennessee to retweet a warning posted by local road safety advocate Shane O'Connor that went viral in which he criticizes people who think it's safe to ride with their feet up on the dashboard. 

"If you ride with your feet on the dash and you're involved in an accident, the airbag may send your knees through your eye sockets," says the tweet which was re-posted to Facebook by Chattanooga Fire Department. 

Airbags aren't always perfect. In March, faulty Japanese Takata airbags were reported to have injured hundreds and killed dozens of drivers around the world, and New Zealand was hit with the largest-ever vehicle recall. When one of the faulty airbags exploded, it could fire shrapnel into the driver and passenger. 

Around 320,000 new and used vehicles in New Zealand were affected by the recall. A faulty part in the airbags caused the explosions, which resulted in hundreds of injuries and 22 deaths worldwide.

But in the bigger picture, airbag technology has played a huge role in reducing road fatalities. According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the chances of a fatality in a crash are reduced by 61 percent if you are wearing a safety belt and are in a car fitted with airbags. 

For airbags to work effectively, you have to work with them. The next time you see someone looking comfortable with their feet up on the dash, it would be wise to encourage them to change their position.