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Can You Drive a Car with Airbags Deployed? Find Out Here

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Collisions are a traumatic experience for everybody involved.

Every modern vehicle has airbags installed. They’re one of the most important safety features in your car and could save your life. When your crash sensors detect an incident, the airbags burst out and absorb the impact. 

However, what do you do after they’ve deployed? Nobody wants to be stranded on the side of the road. Maybe you don’t have another way to leave the scene, and your engine is still running. In this case, it may be tempting to hop in the car and drive away. But can you? The short answer is yes and no. 

While it’s not illegal to drive with deployed airbags, there are many factors to consider. These include the car’s external condition, the extent of the airbag deployment, and if you have passengers or not. Let’s look at how to stay safe in this tricky situation. 

Types of Airbags

When you think of airbags, an image of a giant exploding cushion probably appears in your mind. However, these days, the systems are more advanced and secure the entire vehicle.

Modern cars often have special knee airbags and side airbags for all-around protection. Designers want passengers to have protection from all angles and in every situation. 


Legal Issues

Let’s get to the crux of the matter. You will not face any legal ramifications for driving with the airbags deployed. However, it’s still inadvisable if you can avoid it. 

In the UK and the US, it’s not against the law to drive in this situation. However, you do need to think about your insurance. Most insurance companies base their premiums on the expectation that your airbags are working. If your airbags have already activated, they won’t be able to save your life again. This increases the chances of personal injury and won’t impress your insurance agent. You need to weigh up the situation and make sure that it is worth the risk. 

Driving With Deployed Airbags

When the airbags deploy, your car’s engine will probably shut off. This is a standard feature in most modern vehicles. There’s also a strong chance that you won’t be able to restart it. If you want to find out more about what your vehicle will do, you should consult your driver’s manual or the manufacturer. 

However, an older car’s engine may continue to run. Technically, the vehicle is still drivable in this case, but there are obvious risks. 

The airbags will likely block most of the windscreen. This will impede your vision and make it very dangerous to drive. If you’re intent on driving, the best thing to do is cut or tear the airbag out of the vehicle. 

Why You Shouldn’t Drive With Deployed Airbags

Even if your vehicle still runs, it’s inadvisable to drive it. Let’s look at the reasons why. 

Damage Report

Modern cars are designed to be smart. A crash detection system won’t trigger airbags unless you need the protection. An electronic glitch may occur, but that’s highly unlikely.

In this situation, your vehicle probably suffered damage. As mentioned earlier, it’s not illegal to drive with deployed airbags, but external issues like broken lights will attract police attention. A sympathetic officer may help you, but it is a risk. 


Another problem is that you’re putting passengers at risk. Driving with an airbag-covered windscreen is stupid at the best of times. If you have another accident, you will be liable and could face serious legal issues. 

Even if you can puncture the airbags or remove them, it is still dangerous. Depending on the condition of your vehicle, it may be more susceptible to accidents. Even if it’s just another freak collision, your passengers won’t have any protection. 

Mental State

The last thing to consider is your own condition. A deployed airbag can cause whiplash. Even if you emerge from the accident physically unscathed, it will probably leave you shaken. If you’re on edge, you’re probably not fit to drive. 

If you have to wait a couple of hours for a tow truck or a ride, it’s probably a better option than driving a compromised vehicle. 

Replacing Deployed Airbags

You should replace your airbags as soon as possible. The insurance company should cover the cost if they agree that you weren’t responsible for the collision. Remember that driving away with deployed airbags may affect their judgment. 

Airbags are expensive to refit, so don’t take this risk if you don’t have to. It can be possible to replace them with second-hand airbags. You may be able to save money this way, so shop around. 

However, if you have a brand-new car, you may have more problems. These will have more airbags and can be more difficult. It’s relatively easy to find new front airbags. However, side and curtain airbags come in special sizes and are less available. Their high cost puts a lot of people off. 

Always use a trained technician when you’re replacing airbags because they’re difficult to install. You want to ensure that they will work properly in the case of another collision. Unless you’re a trained professional, it’s not advisable to do it yourself. 

Final Thoughts

When you think it’s about driving with deployed airbags, it’s important to weigh up the risks. If you have passengers in your vehicle, it’s highly inadvisable to continue driving. There are just too many variables that could come back to bite you. Of course, it does depend on the extent of the airbag activation.

If one knee airbag deploys, then you’re probably fine to continue your way. But usually, the entire system will work simultaneously to maximize the protection of the vehicle’s passengers. It also depends on how far you want to drive. If you’re close to home or somewhere where you can safely park the vehicle, it may not be so problematic. 

However, don’t drive through busy downtown areas. You could attract police attention and put other people at risk if your vehicle is compromised.


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