Feds Warn Rhinestone Steering Wheel Decorations Can Become Shrapnel

Unless you want a spangly claymore mine in your hands while you drive, don’t bedazzle your steering wheel.

byNico DeMattia|
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We've been warning you against using decorative steering wheel emblems since 2021, as they can become shrapnel in the event of a crash. Unless you want a spangled Mercedes emblem embedded into your face, like a baddie in Home Alone, putting anything pretty on your steering wheel is ill-advised. But don't just take it from us, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) agrees.

The NHTSA recently released a consumer alert, warning drivers who use steering wheel decorations, claiming they can cause "significant injury or death" in a crash. And the department specifically calls out the rhinestones many drivers decorate their steering wheel emblems with.

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"At least one driver suffered a serious injury that resulted in the loss of sight in one eye, when an aftermarket emblem adorned with rhinestones became dislodged from the steering wheel in a crash and hit the driver in the face," the statement said.

Decorations like rhinestones aren't held on by anything more than cheap adhesives. During a crash, airbags deploy with explosive enough force to easily eject those rhinestones—or any other bedazzlement—and turn them into shrapnel, like the most stylish frag grenade of all time. And drivers shouldn't just think of themselves, as any passenger in the vehicle is also at risk of taking jewelry to the face. The actual emblems automakers affix to steering wheels are permanent, so they don't become hazards when the airbag deploys. Or, at least they're not designed to.

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Any other steering wheel modifications can also hinder the airbag's ability to deploy correctly, or even deploy at all, which would obviously make a crash far more dangerous. So please, don't leave one of those obnoxious laptop trays in front of your steering wheel during your commute. And don't decorate your steering wheel unless you want to drive with a shiny claymore mine in your hands. The government said so.

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