Episode 33: Killer Brace Position

Air Date: June 22, 2005

The brace position was actually designed by the airline industry to kill people rather than save them during an airplane crash in order to save money by paying off wrongful death suits rather than continuous injury compensations.


The brace position protected the test subject (Buster) from serious and possibly fatal injuries. When the test subject was not braced he received far more serious injuries.

(There is a grain of truth to this myth, however: It was learned through research that the amount of money paid by airlines in wrongful death suits is lower than the amount of money paid for injury compensation.)

Driving while talking on a cell phone is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.


Both Adam and Kari failed a general-purpose road safety test while talking on a cell phone and while driving drunk, with cell phones by a wider margin. However, Adam commented that one can easily put away a cell phone if necessary, but not simply become sober as needed.


  1. Bryan H says:

    It’s well known that great injury costs more than death. It is said (facetiously) that if you accidentally run over someone in your car and maim him, you should back over him again and make sure he’s dead.

  2. jamoecw says:

    i’d like to see the driving thing done by people that regularly drink and drive, i know a few and they drive better than they normally do when drunk because they put more effort out in order to drive safely. as for the cell phone thing it is a matter of how invovled they are in the conversation, my sister was looking at a red light with a red car going through an intersection while on a cell phone and continued on until every one in the car yelled at her to stop, while i frequently drive with my cell phone and often times correct those pesky back seat drivers about certain dangers (such as them being there, when the others don’t see them).

  3. Bryan says:

    I would like to see them driving drunk, they had like two beers. As far as the airplane myth, they only dropped them from like 10 feet, a plane crashing would get going a bit faster

    • Caitlin says:

      Legally Kari and Adam can’t drive (even in a parking lot test course) if their BAC is above .08, in the test they drank until their BAC was as close to .08 as possible without going over.

  4. steve says:

    Very Good test!!!
    I have always woundered why seats were not turned around to face backwards in all planes,trains,and buses.Much safer!
    As for CELL PHONES I have people walk into me because they can’t watch what they’re doing, very rude! Peop;e need schooling in CELL PHONE edicate!

  5. Darel Gerlt says:

    Great test on the Cell phones. Would using a hands free device make any differance?

    • Jeff says:

      Actually,yes.I have seen a similar experiment with a hands free device and it seems that the brain cant do both tasks:driving and paying attention during the phone conversation.The experiment was made in the science show Brainiac:Science abuse from Brittain

  6. Tiny Rice says:

    I think this one falls in the same category as the “chicken through the non bird strike approved windscreen”. The seats were bolted to a floor structure and the floor structure was dropped to the tarmace. In reality, the seats are bolted to floor beams via seat tracks which have the fuselage frames and skin for support and load transfer. In addition, the fuselage belly beneath the floor beams and tracks provide a “crumple”zone that would absorb impact energy;not all energy would be transferred to the passengers and thus the possibility of injury could be further reduced.

  7. Brian says:

    the airline conspiracy isn’t completely far fetched. i wish i could remember the specifics but there was a car or tire maker about 10-15 years ago that found out it was making faulty product. and instead of issuing a recall, they calculated that it would actually be cheaper to simply hide the information and just pay off the wrongful death suits out of court. once some documents made it into court though, the judge issued severe punative damages to them.

  8. Bob Collier says:

    “I would like to see them driving drunk, they had like two beers. As far as the airplane myth, they only dropped them from like 10 feet, a plane crashing would get going a bit faster”

    Both Kari and Adam were periodically breathalysed until they were as close as made no difference to the legal limit. Had they gone over it, the police would have stopped the experiment. Had they driven while over the limit, their poor performance would most likely have been worse not better.

    The airplane contraption was dropped from 15 feet and all the impact measurements were consistent with those of an actual air crash. Wren’t you paying attention when you watched the show?

  9. George says:

    Driving while talking on a cell phone is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated… would be BUSTED if the tests were done correctly.

    The common (faulty) procedure for this test is to 1. drive on a course as a control, 2. drive on the course while talking on a cell phone while being asked complicated questions, 3. drive on the course while intoxicated. The results for test 2 and 3 are usually similar.

    There are three (3) missing tests. 1. Driving the course while having a normal relaxed conversation on the cell phone. 2. Driving the course while having a normal relaxed conversation with a passenger (not on a cell phone). 3. Driving the course while being asked the same complicated questions by a passenger (not on a cell phone). 4. One more test that should be run is driving the course while holding a cell phone to your ear with no conversation just to confirm that holding the phone is not the problem.

    You’ll find that driving with a normal conversation on a phone or with a passenger is similar to the first control test. And driving with the intense questions from a passenger will be similar to driving with the intense questions over the phone. The conversation, not the device causes the distraction.

    Also, one major difference is that a phone can be put down if a challenging driving situation arises, the intoxication can’t be turned off at will. If the tests are all run letting the driver decide when to talk and when to concentrate on driving (like in real life) there will be even more contrast between the test drives and driving intoxicated.

    The “incomplete” driving with cell phone test is what is BUSTED!

  10. Son says:

    I have to agree with George’s statement about the conversation in the car whether it is from a cell phone or from a passenger within the car that causes the distraction instead of the cell phone. When I am in a intense comversation with a passenger within my vehical, I am more likely to miss a exit if it is a new place I am going than if it is just a non-intensive conversation. Also, I must tell you that when I do have an intensive conversation with an passenger within the vehical I am much more mentally alert and less likely to fall asleep at the wheel.

  11. George Hudson 13 says:

    This really Helped me with my Science Fair;0

  12. John Pelegano says:

    I just recently saw this episode though it was apparently aired quite awhile ago. I agree with George and Son above. I would be interested in whether it is the conversation or the cell phone that creates the distraction. Would it be possible to repeat the test both with and without the cell phone? Without a cell phone would involve a passenger in the car asking the same sort of complex questions.

    Personally I think it is the conversation. Think about this, it could be a real contribution to car safety and marital harmony. You could get a lot of husbands off the hook who are accused of not listening to their wives while their driving. They would be able to legitimately claim that they needed to focus on their driving. Of course proof of this type might result in legislation banning conversation in cars while they’re moving (similar to the ban on cell phones in my home state), though this too might contribute to marital harmony.

    I’ve also wondered if it is the dialing of the cell phone that is problematic. When I’ve (rarely) tried to do this it seems to require a longer look away from the road, even to enter just one digit, than I would normally allow. Just a thought.

  13. Ash says:

    I am writing a speeh about why people shouldn’t drive and talk on their cell phone at the same time. Thanks, this experiment really helps me alot!! :)

  14. MVG says:

    “Both Kari and Adam were periodically breathalysed until they were as close as made no difference to the legal limit. Had they gone over it, the police would have stopped the experiment. Had they driven while over the limit, their poor performance would most likely have been worse not better.”

    The entire point of the test is to see weather or not talking on a cell phone is AS BAD as driving drunk. Being UNDER the legal limit means you are NOT LEGALLY DRUNK. Therefor by definition of the term, the test is invalid and cannot be counted as confirmed. I understand they are not allowed to actually be drunk but the entire nature of the test revolves around being drunk. Even if you are .0000001 under the legal limit there is a reason its called the “legal limit” you are not drunk until over it.

    • MSpears says:

      So basically they shouldn’t have tested it at all is what you are saying. Because the test would not have been allowed at all if they actually WERE above the legal limit.

  15. Glendower says:

    I have talked about this cell phone issue in my classes quite often when we get to sections on attention and cognitive load. Many people will claim that they don’t make mistakes or drive less well while on the phone (or while drinking, but that’s not what I’m talking about here). My response, colloquially, has been, “Of course you don’t think you make mistakes– if you could see that you were making them, you’d be paying attention and not making mistakes.”

  16. Glendower says:

    MVG: Legal limits are compromises, not scientific facts. Drivers don’t go suddenly from unimpaired to impaired when they cross a magical threshold of .08 or .1 or whatever. In fact, I don’t remember which limit they were shooting for. Truckers have even lower legal limits than non-commercially licensed vehicles. Is there something about the metabolism of a trucker that makes him or her more susceptible to the effects of alcohol? No, it’s just that people compromised to a different point.
    Or we could just say that they were testing for teen drivers (who are the most dangerous class) whose legal limit is 0.

  17. Dragonfyre says:

    For going over the legal limit, it’s illegal to drive at any blood-alcohol level above .08…so the police would have stopped them from driving had it been any higher.
    I’m not old enough to drink yet, but I have seen the effects of alcohol on people. Depending on the person, a blood-alcohol level of .04 could be considered wasted, acting the same as a person with a level above the legal limit. It just varies.
    As for the cellphones, not many people do complicated problems while talking. A normal conversation would be fine, but it is now considered to be illegal in some areas to use a cellphone while driving. Hands free devices are a step above, and is similar to talking to a person in the passenger seat…much safer. I’ve actually found that having a conversation helps me focus while driving…then again, that could possibly be just me. I once got a call on my cellphone, and I pulled off the road to answer it…it was deep in my pocket, and I would have caused an accident trying to reach it.
    Anyway, everything here depends on the person…if they had tested a large sample of the populous, some people would have passed, while drunk and while talking on a phone.

  18. wiscfan says:

    I would like to see them test the difference between talking on a cell phone with and without blutooth to see how much the results were due to physical matters

  19. Marie says:

    On cellphone use, Mythbusters confirmed what I already know. My husband was killed by someone who was texting while driving. Since there is no law against it in my state, the texter did not even get a traffic ticket. I too would like to see Mythbusters look at hands-free vs. hand-held use of phones. I’d wager both are just as distracting.

  20. Ken says:

    like Marie i would also like to see a Hand Held vs Hands Free test.

    that said ive noiced that every time ive seen someone driving (very) badly they always seem to be holding a cell phone to thier head. at least Drunks are trying to concentrate on thier driving.

    i think we need to put aside the mandatory seat belt laws and be more concerned on baning talking on cell phones while driving (without a hands free system anyways) after all theres no ‘second hand’ effect for seatbelts.

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