For years Audra Tatum’s husband repeatedly warned her to not put her feet up on the dashboard of the car when she was a passenger as it was a dangerous habit.
The mother of three from Walker County, Ga., never heeded her husband’s warning. It was a mistake that would impact the rest of her life. She argued that she would have enough time to bring her feet down should an accident happen.
But on Aug. 2, 2015 as Tatum and her husband were heading to her parents’ house about four miles away to pick up her two sons, the couple got into an accident.
“I was going down the road riding passenger in the car with my husband driving and a car pulled out in front of us and we T-boned him at about 45 mph,” Tatum recalls. “I had my right ankle crossed over onto my left knee with my foot pushed up against the dash. When we hit, the airbag deployed and it broke the whole right side of my body.”
In fact, Tatum broke her ankle, femur and arm, as well as her nose.
The mom of two remembers looking at the bottom of her foot as it was facing up towards her.
“There really was no time for any reaction,” Tatum says. “I just remember hearing the tires, the crash and the airbag exploding – and then the aftermath.”
It’s been two years since the accident and Tatum is still recovering from her injuries.
“The recovery has been slow,” she says. “I’m at the point now where being an adult, those types of injuries are as healed as they’re going to be.”
Tatum admits that her life has been forever changed.
“Where I used to be able to go do things with the family and friends — hiking, swimming and riding motorcycles, anything — I can’t do those things like I used to. It used to be that I could take off all day and go hiking up the side of the mountain with the family. Now I’m limited to just a few minutes at a time.”
Now Tatum is speaking out in hopes that others will learn from her mistake.
“I’m just trying to warn people because I hear so many people saying they do that but don’t ever think it will happen to them because what are the chances they’ll get into an accident or that they’ve already been in one accident their whole lives,” she says. “Well, this was my one accident. It only takes one time for this to happen.”
While these incidents are not very common, they’re not completely unheard of says Lewis Smith, manager of national projects at Canada Safety Council.
Tatum’s experience is just one example of driving hazards that can cause serious injury.
The most common incidents, Smith says, are distracted driving. This includes texting on the phone, eating or drinking while driving, adjusting the radio and putting on makeup, for example.
Another big issue is drivers and passengers not wearing their seatbelts.
“We see about 92 per cent of Ontarians using seatbelts on a regular basis,” Smith says. “But the eight per cent that don’t account for almost a third of fatalities. That’s obviously a very disproportionate amount.”
Drunk driving and impaired driving also continue to remain a problem on the roads, Smith says.
Smith also advises drivers to be mindful of the footwear they sport while driving. This means no flip-flops or heels.
“When you’re wearing flip-flops your feet are more loose and free but your flip-flop can get caught underneath the pedal or it can be harder to press the pedals down as hard as you should,” he explains. “It can be a hazard that shouldn’t be there. When driving, it’s always better to have a solid closed shoe.”
And if there’s one thing Smith wants both drivers and passengers to know, it’s to avoid distracting the driver.
“Your number one focus should be on driving,” Smith says. “It’s not something you can multitask easily – if at all – and it’s not something you should try to multitask.”