How to Drive an Air Bag Equipped Car

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Beginning in the 1980s, vehicle manufacturers started installing air bags in vehicle steering wheels. By 1998, passenger vehicles were required to be equipped with dual air bags, while in 2001, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) required that all new light trucks have dual air bags, one for the driver and one installed in the dashboard for the passenger. Air bags are also located in the vehicle's frame just above each door. The force of an accidental collision trips an Airbag sensor, which activates a sodium azide fuse. As the fuse is activated, it triggers the Airbag to deploy at a speed of 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles per hour). Air bags deploy quickly, increasing the risk of injury or potential death if the driver is positioned too closely to the steering wheel. Because of this, drivers need to learn how to drive an air-bag equipped car.

  1. Image titled Drive an Air Bag Equipped Car Step 1
    Understand how an Airbag works during a collision.
    • The letters "S.R.S." stand for "supplementary restraint system," which means the Airbag is intended to be used along with your car's seat belts. Your seat belts are the primary restraint system protecting you in an accident.
    • The seat belts in your car help keep you positioned safely so that, if you are involved in a collision, the Airbag won't injure you when it deploys.
    • During a collision, a sensor in the vehicle signals the Airbag to ignite a fuse. This fuse explodes and produces nitrogen gas. The airbag deploys 50 milliseconds after a collision severe enough to warrant Airbag protection.
  2. Image titled Drive an Air Bag Equipped Car Step 2
    Position yourself and your children safely in your car.
    • The air bags in your car inflate very quickly. You or your children could be seriously injured or killed if you're sitting too close to an Airbag..
    • Push the driver's seat back far enough so that, if the Airbag deploys, you aren't injured by the force of deployment. You should have at least 10 inches (25.4 cm) of space between you and the airbag if it deploys.
    • Ask passengers to push the front passenger seat back far enough so they won't be injured by the airbags deployment during a collision.
    • Place a rear-facing infant car seat in the center rear set so the baby in the car seat is at a distance from the Airbag and the force of a potential collision.
    • Depending on the laws in your state, children may be required to ride in the back seat until they reach a certain age or height. Because of their small size, a deploying Airbag can potentially kill a child.
  3. Image titled Drive an Air Bag Equipped Car Step 3
    Learn how to handle an air-bag equipped steering wheel.
    • Put your hands on the steering wheel in the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions so you protect yourself from broken bones if the Airbag deploys.
  4. Image titled Drive an Air Bag Equipped Car Step 4
    Tow your car to a repair shop once it has been in a collision strong enough to cause Airbag deployment.
  5. Image titled Drive an Air Bag Equipped Car Step 5
    If your air bags have unexpectedly deployed, pull your car to the side of the road as soon as you safely can.
  6. Image titled Drive an Air Bag Equipped Car Step 6
    Schedule maintenance for your car as soon as you can if you get a recall notice regarding faulty air bags.


  • Air bags may not deploy for every type of collision. Factors such as what you collide with and the angle of collision influence whether the Airbag will deploy.
  • There is no way to avoid an unexpected deployment unless you know your car has been recalled due to of faulty air bags. You cannot safely test air bags to see if they are faulty.


  • Do not tamper with the air bags or Airbag covers.
  • Do not drive your car once the air bags have deployed.
  • Do not attempt to disable the air bags in your car. Federal law prohibits the disabling of air bags.

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Categories: Cars