US motorists just aren’t getting the message: stop putting things on your steering wheel.

    In November last year, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a consumer alert which warned vehicle owners about the dangers of decorating their steering wheels with rhinestones and other similar materials.

    The warning came after a driver lost vision in one of their eyes when the metal rhinestone-emblazoned decoration on their steering wheel came loose after a crash and struck them in the face.

    This week, the NHTSA issued another warning, reporting a second driver had suffered severe injuries after their airbag deployed in a crash, resulting in two pieces of a metal object with rhinestones flying into their face and neck. 

    These decorations are often available for purchase via online marketplaces and are advertised as easy to install, supposedly improving a car’s looks with no more effort than pressing an adhesive-backed object to interior parts.

    In many cases, this means covering the fixed logo on a car’s steering wheel, which covers the airbag that can project itself from the cover at more than 300km/h.

    “Unlike the permanently affixed emblems on your vehicle’s steering wheel, these aftermarket decals can easily become dislodged when the airbag deploys. Any alterations or changes to your airbag or its cover can also cause it to malfunction,” NHTSA’s latest warning read.

    “In a crash, the force of a deploying airbag can turn the product into a projectile, resulting in serious injury or death. 

    “Consumers should also remove any such decals that they have already applied to their steering wheels.”

    Though no such warning has been issued in Australia, we’ve previously seen vehicles recalled due to faulty steering wheel emblems.

    In 2021, Mazda Australia recalled more than 70,000 examples of its 3 hatch and sedan as the steering wheel emblem could become brittle and fracture over time, hurling plastic fragments into occupants in the event of a crash.

    Jordan Mulach

    Born and raised in Canberra, Jordan has worked as a full-time automotive journalist since 2021, being one of the most-published automotive news writers in Australia before joining CarExpert in 2024.

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