In this article we answer the question: ‘Is my airbag safe to use with all disability driving controls?’
Airbags are an important safety feature in most cars. But some disability driving controls can affect their use. On top of this some airbags may even be dangerous for people with certain types of disability.
However, this doesn’t mean you should give up on driving controls you might need. When choosing car modifications for disabled drivers it’s important to know there’s often more than one type available. One may suit your driving goal but not your car’s safety set up while another might tick both boxes.
Is my airbag safe no matter what my disability driving controls?
One of your big questions is undoubtedly: “Is my airbag safe to use with all the disability driving controls available to me in the market?”
The answer is no, but there may be a workaround. If you’re choosing disability driving controls take note whether there are mechanical and electronic versions. Here’s why:
|Mechanical controls||Mechanical hand controls are not compatible with all vehicles because they can obstruct airbags and potentially lead to driver injury.|
|Electronic controls||In contrast to mechanical controls, electronic hand controls can be routed around the airbag. Electronic hand controls also usually require less effort to use minimising fatigue when driving.|
Speak to your occupational therapist and converter
You should discuss safety concerns in detail with both your occupational therapist and vehicle converter before a professional removes any of your car’s safety features. They can help you choose the right controls for all your needs (find out why an occupational therapy functional assessment is an important step for safety).
Keep in mind that you’ll need to work with a driver trained occupational therapist (DTOT). That’s because a general OT can’t answer driving questions, like ‘is my airbag safe to use with driving modifications?’
Search for a DTOT on Occupational Therapy Australia here.
Disability driving controls may obstruct airbags
Remember, disability modifications can impact your airbags and, in some cases, make them dangerous to use. It’s important to ask your vehicle converter ‘is my airbag safe to use with the modifications I need?’
Still wondering ‘is my airbag safe?’ Let’s explore safety considerations for the two different airbag types to arrive at an answer:
Knee airbags can make some hand controls difficult. Mechanical hand controls often have mechanical linkages that will impede an airbag’s deployment, putting the driver at risk of injury.
In cases like this, electronic hand controls should be used because the brake lever can be routed around the knee airbag. This maintains all safety features of the vehicle for drivers with and without disabilities. And while it’s possible to disarm or remove knee airbags to install mechanical hand controls, removing them increases the chance of injury in an accident.
Steering wheel airbags
Steering wheel airbags can be dangerous for anyone whose disability causes them to sit particularly close to the steering wheel while driving. This might include people of short stature or with limited arm span or reach.
However, steering wheel airbags can be electronically disarmed when a person with a disability is driving, and then re-armed when other people are driving the vehicle. This maintains the maximum level of safety for all drivers.
Disability car insurance, another safety measure
Once you have the right car and modifications, the next safety step is protecting them with a converted car insurance plan.
View Blue Badge Insurance for wheelchair accessible vehicles and converted cars here. Also know that we provide a discount of up to 25% on disability car insurance if you have a permit for accessible parking spaces. Time to get a quote?