If you’re reading this, you have likely been involved in an accident where your airbags have deployed, and rather than a very expensive replacement, you’re asking:
Can you drive a car once the airbags have deployed? The short answer is yes; however, it is extremely dangerous and can be illegal in most cases. Additionally, some newer vehicles might be programmed not to drive after airbag deployment.
Continue reading to understand when airbags deploy, the associated risks of driving with inflated airbags, and your best course of action.
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Table of Contents
Is Driving With Deployed Airbags Legal?
Although federal regulations require airbags in all new vehicles, no state or federal laws explicitly prohibit driving with deployed bags.
That being said, states can still fine drivers for operating what the law calls “unsafe vehicles.” So, a cop can pull you over and, in their judgment, issue you a ticket for driving in an unsafe vehicle.
You might be able to defeat the ticket in court, but you will still have to go and plead your case.
Another factor to remember is that in states like Florida and Alabama, tampering with airbags is illegal, so, if you have to make changes to the car to make it driveable without airbags, that might be considered tampering and put you in violation of state law.
Don’t forget your insurance because driving with nonfunctional airbags likely violates insurance policies, so, you should check with your insurer before attempting to drive with your airbags deployed or inoperable.
So, legally, it is a grey area.
But practically, vehicles with deployed airbags will fail safety inspections in most states. Law enforcement will also most definitely stop any car driving with a ballooned airbag blocking the view.
Is My Car Totaled If My Airbags Deploy?
In some cases, airbag deployment leads insurers to declare vehicles as total losses.
This happens whenever airbag replacement plus additional repair costs outweigh the actual cash value. But an airbag deployment does not automatically total a vehicle in all cases, especially newer cars.
Do Cars Become Undriveable After Airbags Deploy?
While most vehicles shut off as a safety precaution upon airbag deployment, some newer models take this a step further.
Certain makes and models are designed or programmed to disable driving functionality when the airbags deploy.
This fail-safe mechanism seems intended to guarantee no one attempts to operate the compromised vehicles, eliminating any judgment calls on the driver’s part. However, not all vehicles on the road implement this driving disablement standard after airbag deployment.
Older models in particular may very well still run and drive, according to some drivers who have experienced post-accident airbag deployment.
How To Fix A Car That Won’t Start After Airbags Deploy
If your newer model car refuses to start or shift into gear after deployed airbag troubles, here are some steps to get it back in operation:
- Disconnect and reconnect battery to reset airbag control module
- Reset fuel cut-off system triggered by airbag sensor
- Check and replace any blown fuses related to engine functions
- Clear stored diagnostic trouble codes using an OBD-II scanner tool
- Replace damaged airbags and components
Getting a car started after the fail-safe mechanisms activate requires methodically resetting each system, checking for damage, and likely replacing airbag components. Seeking professional mechanic assistance is highly recommended for both repair and safety reasons.
When Do Airbags Normally Deploy?
Airbags rapidly inflate during serious frontal or side collisions to protect occupants from violent impact with the interior. Front airbags deploy at crash speeds between 10-16 mph depending on seat belt use. Side airbags may deploy at slightly lower speeds. In worse crashes, multiple airbags often deploy simultaneously.
Modern cars have automatic shut off switches that activate upon airbag deployment, but older models may remain operational. However, no car with deployed airbags should be driven due to the following safety reasons:
- Lack of protection in any subsequent accident
- Impaired visibility
- Potential car control issues
- Higher chance of being pulled over
What To Do If Your Airbags Deploy
Follow these steps if you experience airbag deployment after a collision:
- Seek medical help immediately – Call 911 if anyone suffers even minor injuries
- Exit the vehicle and move to safety if possible
- Turn the ignition off
- Document accident details with photos
- File a police report
- Contact your insurance provider
Avoid attempting to drive the vehicle anywhere, even if it remains operational after airbag deployment. Wait for professional assistance.
Can Deployed Airbags Be Replaced?
Yes, deployed airbags must be replaced with brand new sets before safely operating that vehicle again. Most insurance policies cover airbag replacement, with average costs ranging $1,000 – $3,000. But costs can exceed $5,000 depending on the number and type of airbags needing installation.
The Bottom Line
While you can technically drive a car with deployed airbags in certain situations, extreme precautions are necessary, given the safety risks.
Any subsequent accident could gravely injure you or passengers without airbag protection. Instead, refrain from driving and arrange for professional assistance immediately after deployment.
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