by Lyn Lomasi, Write W.A.V.E. Media Staff
Disconnecting airbags is often a topic of discussion among senior citizens, particularly those of smaller height. Depending on the individual, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may recommend small and elderly adults to disconnect the airbags but not always. There are several factors to consider, as well as alternatives to try, before resorting to disconnecting the airbags.
When a senior citizen is riding or driving in a car, the first thing to check in regards to the airbag is the seatbelt. Is the belt fastened correctly? Is the positioning done accurately? The seatbelt should come just over the shoulder, not against or across the neck. According to ConsumerAffairs.com, using a seatbelt and keeping the breastbone of the senior driver or passenger at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel or dashboard will reduce the risk of a serious head injury in an accident by up to 85 percent. If the seatbelt is going across the neck instead of the shoulder, sitting on a cushion could help position it properly, as can moving the seat as far back as possible, while still being able to effectively make use of the gas and brake pedals.
Proper positioning is the key safety factor in a vehicle that contains airbags. If the seatbelt is not positioned correctly, the senior citizen should ride in the back seat instead. If the senior citizen is the driver, the solution may be to disconnect the airbags, but only if certain conditions apply. There are only a handful of conditions that are recommended by the NHTSA for disconnection of a vehicle's airbags and even then, approval is required.
Medical conditions approved by the NHTSA include, in certain instances, scoliosis, achondroplasia, and atlantoaxial instability. Medical conditions and situations that are not approved reasons to disconnect the airbags include advanced age, angina, arthritis, asthma, breast reconstruction, back or neck surgery, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, eyeglasses, facial injury or reconstructive surgery, hyperacusis, median sternotomy, mastectomy, opthalmologic surgery, osteogenesis imperfecta, osteoporosis, pacemakers, pregnancy, scoliosis, supplemental oxygen and tinnitus.
Also approved as a safety reason to disconnect the airbags is if the proper 10 inch positioning between the breastbone and steering wheel or dashboard cannot be obtained, even through alternative methods, such as using a cushion and moving the seat's position.
Overall, it is safest to use an air bag with proper seatbelt positioning for the best protection in an automobile accident. Only in special situations and for certain conditions should the on-off switch be used to disconnect the airbags. It is generally safer to travel in a vehicle that has working airbags.
While it may, at first, seem logical to immediately disconnect the airbags for elderly or small adults that may not always be the safest decision. Air bags play an important role in protecting accident victims from more serious injuries and even death.
Before making the decision to disconnect the airbag for safety reasons, senior citizens should seek the help and advice of a licensed medical professional. A licensed professional will be better able to evaluate the medical risk factors and make an informed recommendation. For more information on disconnecting airbags for small adults or senior citizens, try your local Department of Motor Vehicle office. Many have brochures and other pertinent information, should you have a medical condition that warrants disconnecting your vehicle's air bags.
More Traffic Safety Resources:
Federal Highway Administration
by Lyn Lomasi, Write W.A.V.E. Media Staff
As people age, they sometimes lose the ability to do things they once were able to do with ease. Driving can be one of those things. It's often hard for senior citizens to admit when they can no longer drive. They may feel as though giving up driving is like giving up their independence. It is difficult to tell someone you know and care about that their driving may not be up to par. Unfortunately, while difficult, it may become a necessary and unavoidable task.
There are many ways to initiate a discussion about driving with an elderly person that you are close to or a caregiver for. No matter which method is chosen, it should be done as delicately as possible, so as not to place blame on the senior citizen or offend them. Some may wish to casually bring up the topic. Others may wish to call a family meeting or schedule a doctor appointment, and allow the doctor to make the recommendation.
If you are the bearer of news, there are a few things you can do to help ease the situation. At the same time, make sure that the older driver you are talking to takes you seriously. An example of a bad thing to say would be "Mom, you are driving really badly lately. You shouldn't be driving anymore." In this scenario, the mother could be easily upset or offended, which could have the opposite effect of what you are looking for.
An example of a better way to approach the situation might be: "Mom, did you know that the new medication you're taking has recently been in the news for effecting driving skills? Have you noticed anything?" In the second scenario, the caregiver is informing the senior without placing any blame while expressing that there could be a problem. Also, the question leaves room for the senior citizen driver to think about the situation and a possible solution.
If this type of discussion is not leading anywhere, you or another family member may need to be more direct and provide recent examples to the older driver. One scenario could start with "Dad, that was pretty scary the other day when you ran that traffic light at that busy intersection, wasn't it? Do you think it's time for a check up with the eye doctor? I know it's hard for me to see those lights whenever I need new glasses." Statements like this should lead into discussing the issue further with the senior.
If the issue is still being avoided or denied, a senior's caregiver can also try making more blunt statements, such as "You know, I've been real nervous when I ride in the car with you lately, and I'm afraid to let the kids go anywhere when you're driving. You seem to be having a little trouble with driving, and I'm afraid for your safety and the safety of others. What do you think we should do to change that?"
It is also a good idea to provide a variety of resources during the discussion. Many websites, such as AAA and AARP provide downloadable pamphlets or files. The solution may not always lie in taking away the keys or having the license revoked. With a little help from the right people and resources, some drivers can re-sharpen the skills they are struggling with. Sometimes all it takes is a pair of glasses or a specialty driving course. Ultimately, the main goal is to get the older driver to realize there are some problems with their driving skills and improve those skills or stop driving altogether. To allow someone who cannot drive properly to remain on the road is not fair to that person or others.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Lyn Lomasi is founder and owner of the Brand Shamans Content Community. Services include ordained soul therapy and healing ministry, business success coaching, business success services, handcrafted healing jewelry, ethereal and anointing oils, altar and spiritual supplies and services, handcrafted healing beauty products, and more!
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