Air Bag Safety for Shorter Drivers

Proximity to an air bag is a critical factor in whether or not an occupant will sustain airbag-related trauma.   And shorter drivers, who often sit closer to a vehicle’s air bags, may need to take special precautions to avoid airbag-related injuries.   This is especially true given poorly designed airbags, which are more common in older vehicles.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration states that drivers need to maintain at least 10 inches between their chest and the center of a steering wheel containing an air bag to avoid danger from air bag deployment.   However, sitting 10 inches away from the steering wheel can make driving difficult for shorter drivers.

One solution to this problem is pedal extenders.   Pedal extenders allow drivers to move gas and brake pedals up to three inches closer to their seat.   Equipped on new vehicles, they can cost $120 for a power system (where you press a button to move the pedals forward) or $30 for a manual system (where you turn a knob to bring the pedals forward).

Currently, only certain new vehicle models offer pedal extenders, and only as optional equipment.   So if you are buying a new vehicle and are interested in pedal extenders, ask your dealer what model would suit your needs.   If you need to retrofit your vehicle, there are a number of aftermarket pedal extenders available that a mechanic can install for you.  Most manufacturers offer after-market pedal extenders, and to avoid potentially voiding your warranty and to ensure that the pedal extenders you purchase are compatible with your vehicle and installed properly, it is best to purchase and install after-market pedal extenders through the manufacturer of your vehicle.  Also, some manufacturers will reimburse you if you need to install pedal extenders due to a documented medical condition.  If you need to retrofit your vehicle with pedal extenders, contact your manufacturer’s local service center.