Alert: Steering wheel decorations

Drivers love to personalize and decorate their cars, and the latest trend is steering wheel decorations, such as rhinestone-encrusted emblems and decals. While these accessories may add a touch of flair to the driving experience, safety advocates warn that steering wheel decorations are dangerous.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is again alerting consumers against steering wheel decorations. The agency’s concerns stem from the risks they pose to drivers and passengers, underscoring the importance of prioritizing safety over aesthetic customization. “At least one driver suffered a serious injury that resulted in the loss of sight in one eye when an aftermarket emblem adorned with rhinestones became dislodged from the steering wheel in a crash and hit the driver in the face,” the agency said.

Consumer Alert: Don’t Buy or Use Steering Wheel Decorations, Emblems or Decals

Drivers seem to love steering wheel decorations because they offer an easy and unique way to personalize the interior of their cars. These are aftermarket products, meaning they are appliances that don’t come with a car, but that you buy at an accessory store or online. People can make their car look different from everyone else’s by sticking a few decals on the steering wheel. So the inside of your car doesn’t say Ford or Toyota, it says YOU. But it’s dangerous, especially the popular rhinestone-encrusted displays. The National Highway Transportation Safety Authority says that “in a crash, the force of a deploying airbag can turn the product into a projectile, resulting in serious injury or death.”

The Inherent Dangers of Steering Wheel Decorations

While the aesthetic appeal of steering wheel decorations is undeniable, the NHTSA’s warning highlights the significant risks associated with these aftermarket accessories. The primary concern centers around the potential for these decorations to become dislodged and transform into dangerous projectiles during a collision.

Unlike the permanently affixed logos on factory-installed steering wheels, the adhesive-backed decals used in aftermarket decorations can easily become detached when subjected to the immense forces generated by a deploying airbag. When this occurs, the decorations can be propelled with tremendous speed and force, posing a grave threat to the driver and other occupants of the vehicle.

The NHTSA has reported at least one incident where a driver suffered a severe injury, resulting in the loss of sight in one eye, after a rhinestone-adorned emblem became dislodged and struck the driver’s face. This harrowing example underscores the severity of the potential consequences, as the face, being close to the steering wheel, is particularly vulnerable to direct impact from these projectiles.

The Consequences of Steering Wheel Decoration Failures

The injuries resulting from dislodged steering wheel decorations can be devastating, with the potential to cause a range of debilitating conditions. Lacerations, fractures, and severe facial trauma are all possible outcomes, with the potential for long-lasting physical, emotional, and financial implications for the victims and their families. The projectiles can strike passengers sitting in the front or rear seats, causing similar injuries and potentially leading to catastrophic consequences.

The NHTSA’s warning highlights the importance of maintaining the integrity of the vehicle’s original design, as any alterations or modifications to critical components like airbag covers can compromise their functionality and increase the risk of injuries in a crash. The agency is telling drivers to remove any such decals, that they have already applied to their steering wheels. 

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