Safety advocates are warning vehicle owners about “bling” steering wheels that are sold on online stores like AliExpress and eBay. These are essentially steering wheel decorations consisting of sticky-backed strips of rhinestones fitted for wheels ranging from Jeep to Mercedes-Benz and Mini. According to an article in The Drive, these stick-on fake gemstones are dangerous because they are often cheaply made.
Why Are These Products Dangerous?
It’s hazardous because these decorations go on the steering wheel, which is the location from where the driver’s side airbag deploys. So, it’s pretty much like putting fragile items on top of an explosive. Should the airbag deploy, the impact could fling the cover open with enough force to separate the stones from the cover, tossing them around the cabin and into vehicle occupants. In other words, they could become airborne projectiles in the event of a crash with fatal consequences.
Many modern airbag covers simply fold up or to the side reducing the odds of such shrapnel being hurled directly at the driver. However, that is not the case with all late-model vehicles. The last-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI, for instance, has an airbag cover that splits almost down the middle.
So, if an owner applied a ring of VW badge-encircling rhinestones like one sold on AliExpress, airbag deployment would almost certainly split the ring in two, freeing the stones in the process. But regardless of how your vehicle’s airbags deploy, it would be best to avoid sticking anything on top of your airbag.
Tens of millions of Takata airbag inflators have already been recalled because they can degrade over time and explode with such force that it expels shards of metal into the vehicle compartment. These defective airbags have caused at least 28 deaths and 400 injuries worldwide. The Takata recall has shown how dangerous these types of objects can be in the vehicle compartment.
Product Liability Issues
Product manufacturers have a responsibility to manufacture things that are safe for consumers to use. While these rhinestone or gemstone decorations might be visually appealing, they are not safe. If you have been injured as a result of products made with substandard parts or items, you may be able to seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, cost of rehabilitation, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. An experienced product defect lawyer will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options.