Whether it’s walking on the crosswalk of a highly trafficked street without peering out around a parked car, or stepping gracelessly onto the wet bathroom floor after a shower, we all might unknowingly do little things that put us in danger. Unfortunately, you may only realize the trouble involved once you’re in a hospital bed…

For instance, on a long, tiring road trip, a 22-year-old Canadian college student made one simple gesture that anyone who’s ever been in a car has probably done themselves. Undertaking what she thought was a safe and simple move, however, nearly ended up costing her everything…

   In August of 2010, 22-year-old Bethany Benson was just one year away from college graduation. She’d be leaving Eastern Canada’s Trent University with degrees in History and French, then tackling a teaching credential. That was the plan, anyway…

Before Bethany’s final year at the University, however, she drove a 2002 Pontiac Sunfire to Michigan with her then-boyfriend Paul for a short visit to her aunt’s house. The trip home was when Bethany’s life changed forever.

On August 2nd, Bethany and Paul sped down Highway 402, right, a Canadian road that cut through the heart of farmlands. In the Sunfire, the two trailed behind an 18-wheeler. What happened next only took an instant.

In front of the truck, a small car and a motorcycle collided, killing the motorcyclist. To avoid slamming into the crash, the 18-wheeler’s driver punched the truck’s brakes—which Paul saw far too late.

He swerved, but couldn’t avoid slamming into the back of the truck. It would’ve been an understatement to say the car was totaled—nothing remained of the front end but a twisted metal wreckage. And the people inside?

The driver suffered cuts and gashes that required 100 stitches to successfully patch up. Bethany, however, suffered injuries beyond imagination. Injuries compounded because of one small gesture.

See, on the long stretch of nothing between Michigan and Canada, Bethany grew uncomfortable in the car’s cramped front seat. So she did what anyone in her position would do when on an endlessly boring drive…

haljackey / YouTube

To get comfortable, Bethany had put her feet up on the dashboard of the car. When the Sunfire smashed into the back of the truck, the passenger airbags deployed at nearly 200 mph. Only her legs were kind of in the way.

With all the speed and force of a Formula One race car, the bags burst into her hamstrings, sending her knees directly into her face, negating the safety of the airbags altogether. You can probably imagine the injuries.

A broken eye socket, nose, and cheekbone. A dislocated jaw and a ruptured spleen. Her feet were so badly shattered that, afterwards, her shoes would be two sizes smaller. But that wasn’t even the worst of it all.

The impact wiped her memory. The promising student determined to be bilingual could now barely speak one language. Bleeding in her brain wiped out—or at least temporarily stifled—her career aspirations. She described her exact symptoms online.

She had sensitive hearing and mood swings; a short temper and migraines; bars and clubs were like torture to her and her tastes constantly changed. Her behavior became inexplicable and strange, too.

The new Bethany sent angry and inappropriate texts to people in the middle of the night. She was more naive. She had bursts of anger and bouts of depression. And it put a lifelong responsibility on her mother, Mary.

“I got back a different daughter,” after the accident, her mother Mary, seen below with a young Bethany, said. “I lost a sweet 22-year-old who worked full-time and put herself through university. She was on a great path. I got a 13-year-old with anger issues.” 

Because of the injuries, Bethany had to live with her mother. “There will be no early retirement,” Mary mourned. “Bethany only has medical benefits through my work, and there’s no way I can let that go.” But amazingly, Bethany’s fighting spirit returned.

Bethany—who’d been an aspiring boxer until 2009—wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel. In 2013, she channeled her power behind a big punch to make a difference in more than one way.

 Bethany wanted to get her message out. “I always used to put my feet up” in the car, she told Toronto’s The Star. “It’s easier on the back if you have your feet up. I never even thought that it could be so dangerous,” just one of many interviews she did after her accident.

More impressively, Bethany finished college, injuries and all, eventually earning the BAs in both French and history. Afterwards, in 2015, she entered into the M.A. program at York University for Critical Disability Studies with a stellar purpose.

“I have many invisible disabilities now and many that someone my age should not have,” she wrote on her webpage. “I have faced many people judging me and making rude comments because I look ‘normal.'”

This encouraged her to focus on what she called “invisible disabilities” while in graduate school. She hoped to create campuses where students knew just because someone wasn’t stuck in a wheelchair doesn’t mean they weren’t suffering.

If nothing more, Bethany’s life is a shining example of the dangers of putting your feet up on the dashboard. And it makes you wonder: what other every day gestures are actually really dangerous?

Bethany’s story is a reminder of just how important it is to keep your feet off the dashboard. This simple precaution could make a world of difference!

Share Bethany’s story with your friends below, and warn them of this danger!