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Though not illegal, feet on dash is dangerous

Question: I see a lot of young girls riding in vehicles with their feet up on the dash. If there is an air bag in the dash isn't this illegal? I have been told that people can get hurt if there is an air bag there and you get in a crash.

Answer: While this may not be illegal per say, it is definitely a very bad thing to do. From my studies on air bags I have learned that the engineers have figured that an air bag must deploy in approximately 3 milliseconds. That is in just 3 one millionths of a second.

The air bag is folded up and attached to a canister. (My choice of words so do not get hung up on technicalities here.) Inside this canister, there is what appears to be a powdery substance, and an igniter. When the computer decides the air bag needs to be deployed it sends a little electrical signal to the sparkplug which creates the spark that in turn sets the powdery substance to burning.

This powder then burns very rapidly so the expanding heat and gases cause the air bag to inflate very quickly. The bag then breaks through the covering and inflates in front of us providing added protection in a collision.

Here is a very big point. When full, that bag takes up a certain amount of space and we have learned that if there is something in that space already the bag will usually move it. Things like computers, cell phones, and in your mentioned scenario, legs with ankle-knee-hip joints just to name a few but we have also learned that in moving it, the bag tends to destroy it too.

So now there are some things we really should not do, like put our feet up on the dash. Within 3 milliseconds the bag is going to drive your feet to your chest. Air bags are a terrific safety tool but they bring with them some precautions.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws in Minnesota send your questions to Trooper Andy Schmidt, Minnesota State Patrol, 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205, or e-mail