Danger Zone

By Sharon Naylor

September 4, 2013 4 min read

If you've ever had a water bottle roll out from under your driver's seat and get in the way of your brake pedal while driving, you know what a danger that can be. If that water bottle or any other beverage container that made its way beneath your seat had wedged itself beneath your brake pedal, you would likely be at risk for a car accident -- perhaps a deadly one.

Your accelerator pedal might also be a danger zone if bottles or other items roll or slide forward to interfere in your accelerator's range of motion. If, say, a child's toy had rolled around while you were driving and gotten stuck under your gas pedal, your ability to safely speed up into a merge could be dangerously compromised.

So it's important to make sure that the area beneath your driver's seat is always free of bottles, cans, takeout drink containers, kids' toys, shoes, beauty products or anything else that might live in your car. In addition to that extra pair of heels you keep beneath your front seat, there's an unexpected source of rolling dangers: your grocery shopping bags that might tip over while you're on the road, spilling out cans of soup, tomato sauce, enchilada sauce, pomegranate juice ... whatever was on your supermarket shopping list and may have escaped from your bags. These escapees can roll from your back seat and under your brake pedal to cause a driving danger.

So make it a high priority to teach all driving members of your family to add to their ritual a checking under the front seat to be sure all is clear. Explain to them that soda cans and bottles, sports water bottles, food containers and other items can be a danger by rolling and preventing your brake function and needed acceleration, causing injury to themselves and others -- which can lead to charges being filed against them, damage to and loss of the car and other very serious repercussions -- all from having soda cans haphazardly tossed into the back seat. Remind them that another member of the family may have been driving the car before them, so they should check each and every time they get in the car.

And make it easy to prevent the dreaded under-seat clutter: install a wide-opening trash receptacle that hangs over the back of the front passenger seat. With that simple receptacle in place, your family members will easily toss their empty cans and bottles into that holder and be safer while driving. (The receptacles usually cost $10 to $20)

It is, after all, not just the wedged item that can cause an accident, but the distraction of "what's hitting my ankle?" or the fear that something will get wedged. And distraction is one of the top causes of car accidents, says Mark Edwards, director of traffic safety at the American Automobile Association.

"The research tells us that somewhere between 25 and 50 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in this country really have driver distraction as their root cause," he said.

Close to 1.2 million people die each year on the world's roads, and that number is expected to rise by 65 percent by the year 2020, says a report by World Health Organization and the World Bank.

Distraction by items in the car is truly a serious issue, so bring this danger to your family's awareness, make it easier for your family members to dispose of spent items while driving and look under your driver's seat both before and after any drive to be sure your space is clean and clear. As an added benefit to keeping your under-seat space free of drink and food containers, squirrels, mice and other pests won't smell those fries or that sweet, sugary drink and make a home in your car's engine, which can cause thousands of dollars in damages.

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