Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Steering Committee

When we think of increasing our lifespan and reducing our physical discomfort, we often think of exciting advances in medicine, or the latest scientific innovation. While science and technology have certainly increased life expectancies, it's largely the seeming banality of public health that allows many of us to live well into our 70's and beyond.

By keeping excrement separate from the drinking water, for example, cholera outbreaks are largely unheard of in the West, and lifespans have significantly increased as a result of this single preventative measure.

For those of you who are interested in yoga and meditation, perhaps you're already doing many of the right things: moving toward a plant-based diet, brushing your teeth, exercising, flossing and meditating. Are there any simple preventative measures that are unaccounted for?

For many of us, a simple way to reduce our risk of injury involves how we drive our cars, and specifically, how we hold the steering wheel. In days past, we learned to hold the steering wheel at the '10 and 2' position. Since many of us have been driving for a l-o-n-g time, it's become a deeply conditioned habit. Unfortunately, the '10 and 2' position is entirely wrong for cars equipped with airbags. And since the majority of cars built within the past twenty years are equipped with airbags, most of us would do well to relearn how to hold the steering wheel.

Several of my friends are paramedics, and over the years they've told me tell grim stories about calls involving car accidents. Though death rates have steadily declined over the past two decades, car accidents can still be horrifically traumatic. Airbags may not be perfect, but they're a heck of a lot better than the alternative.

While deaths from car accidents have decreased, the incidence of broken arms and broken facial bones has increased. Why?

When an airbag goes off, it's moving at a speed of up to 200mph. There is no time to shift position or move, and anything in the airbag's path will be hurled toward the driver's face and torso. In the '10 and 2' hand position, the steering wheel airbag propels the driver's arms back until they hit something solid: the A-pillar of the car, the driver's face or the driver's torso. In a worst case scenario, the force of the driver's arms flinging into their face breaks both their facial bones and their arms. If they're relatively lucky, only their arms are broken. And if they're wholly lucky - well, they're unscathed from the airbag that may have saved their life!

With airbags now standard in every vehicle, drivers need to re-learn how to hold their steering wheel. Rather than the '10 and 2' hand position, the '3 and 9' position is now considered optimal. With the hands in the '3 and 9' position, in the unfortunate event of a collision, the airbag would deploy above the driver's arms, and the risk of injury to face and arms is greatly reduced.

Like any new skill, holding the steering wheel in a different way may feel odd at first. Not uncommonly, drivers report that the '3 and 9' position doesn't feel as agile or safe. Generally, this feeling of sluggishness is related to unfamiliarity, and is not an inherent property of the '3 and 9' hand position. With regular practice of the '3 and 9' hand position, this safer hand placement will become the new normal. Just like learning a new yoga pose, the new often feels awkward, though with regular practice, the unfamiliar becomes familiar.


madge olivia said...
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Jhonson Smith said...
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Shaun Stille said...
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