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Car Safety for the Horizontal Passenger
Automobile Safety for the Horizontal Passenger
Safety Restraint System in an Astro Van
People who can't sit are in serious danger when they travel in the back of vehicles lying down. The same is true of people who can sit but choose to travel in the back of vans lying down for any reason whatever. (But most of these people ignore the dangers—hoping that they'll be lucky.) A few nonsitters may be able to use subways or busses to meet some of their transportation needs—but busses simply won't fill the bill at times.

Prone riders might not realize the danger they're in, but it's there. Lying on a mattress or whatever in the back of a moving vehicle with no restraint system is playing Russian Roulette. Many people who try this game end up with broken or severely injured necks. Some even get killed. It would be very difficult for these people to adopt safety measures that would make them as safe as sitting riders, but at least they can take simple steps to limit those scary neck, face, and upper torso injuries.

I haven't tested the system described herein in crash tests (who has the money?), but there's sound physics and engineering behind it. No claims are made about the safety of this system, so "use it at your own risk," as the old expression goes. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it will greatly lessen the chances of neck, head, and shoulder injuries. And that's all I was shooting for. One would have to be pretty dumb not to wish to avoid snapping one's neck against the back of the front seat in the event of a front-end accident. Proactive is protective. Once again, I'm not advising anyone to use this system—I'm merely telling you what I do. I respect your intelligence enough to let you decide if you'd feel safer with this system or not. My design is for a 1996 Chevy Astro van; modify it as needed if you put it in another type of vehicle. Locate your
nearest dealer of Chevrolet vans if you want to do it as I did, or check out how my measurements would work in your van.

Here are the various components that make up my restraint system—there are seven in all:
• Mattresses and pads
For the mattress, I use 7 foot by 3 foot medium soft foam that's a foot thick topped with 7 foot by 3 foot softest grade latex foam that's 3 inches thick and has little holes. (Thickness and softness of mattresses help cushion road bumps for the prone passenger with a delicate back and/or neck.) Then I cover the whole works with a sheet.

• Back and head pillows
The system can be used for back-, front-, or side-lying people whose heads are a foot away from the back of the front seat for safety's sake. I use a normal head  pillow. And, for side-lying people, it's safer and more comfy to also use a back pillow—the bigger the better. I clothespin ours into place against the side of the van—clipping it to other pillows that are stuck into the space between the van's side and the mattress. This pillow and its placement will make back- or front-lying people safer too.

• Arm rest
This is for side-lying only and may be any type of pillow, bolster or foam piece, or you can skip this altogether.
Car Safety for the Horizontal Passenger
• Leg rest
This is for side-lying only but cannot be skipped, in my opinion, for reasons of both comfort and leg safety. The size I recommend is 46 inches by 7 inches by 10 inches and it should be cut from medium softness and medium density foam.

Once I got my foam piece home from the foam supply store, I trimmed down all corners (from one 90-degree angle to two 135-degree angles) until they felt comfy.

Then I drilled a hole all the way through the foam diagonally—the long way. This required an Irwin 2 1/8-inch Forstner Bit and a 2-foot extension mounted on a 3/8-inch electric drill. I didn't actually have the needed extension so I used a 1 3/8-inch wood drill bit on a 1-foot extension, the above Forstner with no extension (none that I had would fit), a bread knife, an electric kitchen knife thrust into the hole, and bare hands to tear with to get the ragged inside hole cleaned up. In the long run, it all worked out fine, but I'm exposing the fact that I was too cheap to buy the correct tools for the job. I sewed a cloth cover on this leg rest, leaving openings for the hole. Seat belt material was thrust all the way through this hole when I assembled the system.
Car Safety for the Horizontal Passenger
Car Safety for the Horizontal Passenger
Car Safety for the Horizontal Passenger