Legality of Disconnecting Airbags

Source: CAA Central Ontario, April 1998

Transport Canada recently announced a new national program enabling certain Canadians to have airbag switches installed in their vehicles. Transport Canada points out that airbags save lives when they deploy as intended and when used in tandem with seat-belts. However, certain individuals would benefit from the option of switching off the airbags. Canadians who feel that airbags place particular risks for them will be able to submit a form to Transport Canada on which they will self-certify that they meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • They have a rear-facing child restraint that must be used in the front passenger seat, as in pickup trucks and sports cars.
  • They must routinely place children in the front passenger seat, as in the case with car pools.
  • They cannot ensure a driver's seating position will put their chest at least 25 centimeters from the steering wheel
  • They have a good medical reason to deactivate the airbag.

Transport Canada will prepare and describe how to arrange to have airbags deactivated. CAA supports Transport Canada's position, although it firmly believes that most motorists should never deactivate their airbags. Members with airbag-equipped vehicles can maximize their safety by observing a few guidelines:

  • Adjust your seat and seat back so that your chest is at least 25 cm from the steering wheel, while allowing your feet to reach the pedals comfortably.
  • Always use your seat-belt. An airbag is designed to work in tandem with the vehicle's seat belt system and to cushion you in the event of a head-on collision
  • Always buckle children under 12 years into the rear seat, in a child restraint if their size warrants it, a booster seat or the normal car seat-belt system. Rear-facing child restraints should NEVER be placed in the front passenger seat, if it is equipped with an airbag. CAA believes airbags save lives when drivers and passengers are properly restrained with seat belts in combination with airbags.

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