(CBS News) — As soon as Audra Tatum would hop into the passenger seat of a car, the mother of three from Walker County, Georgia, would lean back and relax with her feet up on the dashboard.
Her husband warned her about the dangerous habit, but Tatum didn’t care — it was comfortable.
“All my life I had my legs crossed and my foot on the dash,” Tatum told CBS News. “My husband always told me, ‘You’re going to get in a wreck someday, and you’re going to break your legs.'”
Tatum assured him he was wrong.
“I’ll put my foot down in time,” she would always reply.
But two years ago, on August 2, 2015, Tatum’s perspective changed completely.
The couple was heading to her parents’ house about four miles away to pick up her two sons when a car pulled in front of her husband and they T-boned him. Everyone was able to walk away from the scene with scrapes and bruises, except for Tatum.
“The airbag went off, throwing my foot up and breaking my nose,” Tatum explained. “I was looking at the bottom of my foot facing up at me.”
Tatum’s ankle, femur and arm were all broken by the impact.
“Basically my whole right side was broken, and it’s simply because of my ignorance,” Tatum said. “I’m not Superman. I couldn’t put my foot down in time.”
Tatum underwent several surgeries and weeks of physical therapy. It took her over a month to start walking again.
Two years later, she’s still facing obstacles.
“I can’t do my career as an EMS. I can’t lift patients anymore,” she explained. “I can’t stand more than four hours at a time. Once I’m at that four-hour mark I’m in tears.”
Now the mom is using her story to warn others.
“I keep telling everybody, you don’t want this life,” she said. “You don’t want the pain and agony every day.”
A local fire department is helping to spread her story to demonstrate the serious consequences of resting your foot on a dashboard.
“Airbags deploy between 100 and 220 MPH. If you ride with your feet on the dash and you’re involved in an accident, the airbag may send your knees through your eye sockets,” the Chattanooga Fire Department warned in a Facebook post that has been shared more than 1,600 times.
If there wasn’t an airbag at all, Tatum predicts her injuries could have been even worse.
“It could have done so much more damage. It did make it break my nose, but I could’ve hit the dash a whole lot harder without that airbag,” she said.
As she continues to recover, Tatum plans on telling her story to even more members of her community — and she hopes people get the message.
“If I can save one person from doing this and they’re not going through it, that would be wonderful,” Tatum said.