Records and Facts

Heads and Arms Inside the Car at all Times

Sideswipe Accident

Photo by [sakhorn38]

Growing up, taking road trips with the family was always a super fun time. Traveling through the mountains of Colorado, or visiting our favorite camping site in New Mexico. And for those of you that have had similar experiences I’m sure you’re aware of the parental warning, “Keep your head and arms inside the car at all times“.
Is this warning really necessary? Or is it just another thing to be told by parents in an attempt to better discipline their children? Of course for any of you that have read my post Parents Beware of Road Trips with tha Kidos you’ve been informed of many other catastrophes that can occur on family road trips…lol
But it’s such a good feeling to be traveling down the highway and have your arm sticking out the window so you can feel the powerful turbulence of the wind swooshing past your hand. But let’s explore the truths of why you should always keep your head and arms inside the car at all times.

Arms Inside the Car at all Times, Or Else

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the term “sideswipe“. That’s right, it’s exactly what you think it is, picture this… You’re traveling down the highway with your imaginary airplane sticking out the window. Then all of a sudden a car traveling over 50 MPH gets a little too close to the inside lane. And BAMB! you’re know sporting a nice bloody stump instead of an arm.


This is what’s known as a `Sideswipe Injury` or `Traffic Elbow`. This is the terminology for severe upper body trauma that is so extreme, even medical books have a section dedicated to these types of injury.


This could also be caused by a driver that has his elbow resting on the window ledge of the car while driving. In a split second you could be sideswiped by a car in opposing traffic or possibly collide with a stationary object such as a street sign or lamp post in the street. These types of injuries can range from a simple skin abrasion, to a very major gash with lots of blood loss and maybe even the loss of a limb. Extreme compound fractures are also quite common in these cases and may lead to amputations or worse, death.


You may of heard the old urban legend concerning a school bus full of kids, where one of the children was decapitated from sideswiping a tree. Truth be told, this specific incident hasn’t actually happened like the legend says. But… It has been reported that four U.S. children have been killed by school bus injuries in recent years. They were not decapitated, but died due to trauma from their heads slamming into trees and poles.


Normally the times children will have their heads hanging out of the bus windows is during loading or unloading times at school. They hang their heads out so they can yell at their buddies standing on the school yard. But unfortunately this is also the time that a bus may be closest to poles or signs while driving nearby the school.


Medical Literature on Sideswipe Injuries

There is quite a bit of medical literature that concerns sideswipe injuries, but most of this information was compiled some years ago. This was a time where automobiles were much smaller and the roads were quite a bit narrower. Not only this, but it wasn’t uncommon for drivers to have their windows down in order to get a fresh breeze on hot days. Air conditioning wasn’t as common in autos as it is these days.


In Australia there was a report on sideswipe injuries in 2006 which showed that not only is driving with your elbow hanging out of the car illegal, but local hospitals normally see one of these accidents every couple of months or so. Most of these injuries required surgery.


Are Kids More Likely to Have a Sideswipe Incident

If you’re thinking kids are probably less likely to have a sideswipe accident due to them having shorter arms. Or maybe because they aren’t as likely to leave their arm hanging out the window as a driver might, then you’d be wrong. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are approximately 1,000 children injured by electric windows each year. Five of which will meet their demise from this.


It’s quite common for children to hang out of the car window for various reasons and accidentally lean or put a knee on the power window button. If it happens to be the child’s head that’s hanging out the window while this button is depressed, then it’s likely they may choke to death.


There are certain non-profit groups that have lobbied for automobile manufacturers to install auto-reverse sensors on power windows for many years now. But regardless of their attempts, roughly 20% of new vehicles actually have this feature installed. But there have been small attempts to fix the problem by assuring most new vehicles have lever style switches rather than rockers or toggles, this makes sure the windows will not roll up by pushing a button downward.

So next time you look at the window lock button on your car and think, “that’s there to keep the kids from playing with the windows”. Think again, there are numerous reasons for this feature. It helps to keep kids’ limbs and heads inside the car while it’s moving, plus may prevent them from choking themselves to death while hanging out the window.
Have you ever had a sideswipe accident or have you or your child been wedged between a power window in the car? Tell us your story in the comments below.

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18 thoughts on “Heads and Arms Inside the Car at all Times
    1. Thanks! Yah, and who ever said this was just something said to get the kids to settle down never had their face knocked off by a tree limb! 😮

  1. For children safety, driver should set a warning board inside the bus in my opinion. It’s so shameful if the driver just responsible for driving the bus and not for people safety 🙁

    1. You are so right Darasi, the children’s safety should be of utmost importance. Unfortunately not all drivers ensure the safety of their passengers like they should. I also believe the guidelines for choosing who drives those buses should be pretty strict.

  2. ya heads and arms kept inside the car at the time of traveling other wise it will lead to problems.why we have to take risks on careful while driving car on busy roads.

    1. Safety while driving should be of utmost importance, but many folks do not think things through thoroughly when on the road. Especially when children are involved you should not only teach them good safety, but practice it as well. Thanks for the comment!

  3. that is why children are always advised by their parents to put all of their organs inside the vehicle.
    nice post dude.

  4. while we are traveling in car we have to take care other wise it leads to should kept you hands and head inside car.thank you for providing useful information.

    1. Absolutely! This is some extremely dangerous acts that can lead to major injuries and possibly death as we’ve learned. It’s always best to make safety a best practice when traveling.

  5. Good!! This is an amazing article!! I would like to say that when you go for drive then you should keep your hands and arms inside the car.I am totally agree with your article!!Thanks for your concern for our safety!!!

    1. Very welcome! Safety is very important and if I can shed a little bit of insight to make the world a safer place then I’m glad to do it. Thanks for dropping by.

  6. This is very dangerous thing people try to do not do these type of activity..

    1. Yep this is recipe for disaster if I’ve ever seen it. Hanging limbs outside of the car especially when traveling down the road is just asking for something bad to happen.

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