Some excerpts from the article:
“Touch drills” and “muscle memory”
While your pilots are waiting for takeoff, it may surprise you that they’re probably doing a safety drill — what if this or that should go wrong on takeoff, which buttons would we push or steps would we take? So they go through the motions of various procedures, touching and even moving the controls. They call these touch drills, and Andy and Diane suggest that passengers do the same thing just before takeoff, perhaps buckling and unbuckling their seat belts three times. Sounds daft? “It’s muscle memory,” said Diane. “In an emergency, people panic. They think they’re in their cars, and try to release the seatbelt by pushing a button rather than lifting a flap.”
Indeed, as the final report of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board noted following the crash of US Airways flight 405, which landed in the water after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, “Some passengers tried to move from their seats while their seatbelts were still buckled, and other passengers had difficulty locating and releasing their seatbelt buckles because of disorientation.”
The proper brace position
Some of the finer points of flight safety may seem particularly arcane, but there’s a reason for every detail. If you’ve ever bothered, for example, to look at the safety card in the seat back pocket, you may have noticed that the correct brace position is to put your hands on your head, but not in just any slipshod fashion (and definitely not with the fingers locked together). See how the illustration shows one hand over the other? Is that just arbitrary? No as it turns out. Should something fall on you during a crash landing, you want to protect at least one hand (preferably the one you write with) because you’ll need it to unbuckle your seat belt when it’s safe to do so. Your other hand is in that position to provide some protection to your “strong” hand, which will be doing the unbuckling.