Do Airbags Deploy In A Rear End Collision? (All You Need To Know)

Airbags are some of the most important safety features in vehicles during a car crash, but their effectiveness in rear end collisions is less straightforward.

Therefore, you may wonder- do airbags deploy in a rear end collision? If you’d like to find out, keep reading to see what I learned!

Do Airbags Deploy In A Rear End Collision?

Airbags are not likely to deploy in a rear end collision because the crash sensors are usually only fitted onto the front and sides of the vehicle. This is because regular airbags are designed to keep occupants from hitting the dashboard during a collision, and this doesn’t happen when the car gets rear ended.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about airbags and rear end collisions, including a deeper look into why they don’t deploy, what happens during a crash and more!

Do Front Airbags Deploy When Rear Ended?

Front airbags aren’t likely to deploy when you get rear ended because the crash sensors that trigger deployment are located on the front and sometimes on the sides of the vehicle.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), front airbags are meant to deploy in the event of “moderate to severe frontal or near frontal crashes.”

However, rear end collisions would happen too far from this zone for the sensors to pick them up and set off the airbags.

What Happens When You Hit A Car From Behind?

To understand exactly why airbags are generally not designed to deploy in a rear collision, we first need to break down what happens in this type of crash.

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When you rear end a car, you either cause it to move forward a bit if it was stationary or gain some speed if it was already moving.

Due to inertia, this acceleration will cause the occupant(s) of the car to jerk backwards in their seats.

They might move forward a little afterward, but it won’t be nearly as much as the initial backwards motion or as far during a frontal collision. These consecutive whipping motions are hard on the body, particularly on the neck, and they cause whiplash.

Why Don’t Airbags Deploy When Rear Ended?

Why Don't Airbags Deploy When Rear Ended?

Going by the description of the effects of a rear end collision in the section above, we can deduce that, apart from the lack of rear crash sensors, airbags don’t deploy when you get rear ended, as they wouldn’t be useful in preventing the common types of injuries in these crashes.

Front airbags are meant to keep you from hitting the dashboard or steering wheel when inertia from a frontal collision pushes you forward at the original speed of the car before the crash.

When you get rear ended, you’re generally not at risk of jerking forward far enough to hit anything other than an airbag if it did deploy.

Side and curtain airbags keep you from direct impact with something that hits the side of the vehicle (ex. when you get T-boned or spin out of control and crash into a tree or pole).

Overall, airbags will not go off when you get rear ended because they’re not designed to prevent or minimize the types of injuries that result from this.

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If anything, an airbag deploying during a rear end collision could actually be more of a safety risk.

Airbags go off with a lot of force and at very high speeds, and deployment is decided based on whether the risk of the airbag causing issues outweighs the risk of the airbag remaining intact.

In a rear end collision where you’re not at risk of hitting the steering wheel or dashboard, an airbag hitting you would cause unnecessary injuries without actually protecting you.

This is why most manufacturers don’t bother to install crash sensors in the rear and instead rely on other safety mechanisms to protect you in these cases.

In What Type Of Collision Do Airbags Deploy?

Airbags usually deploy in frontal or near frontal crashes as well as side collisions in models with crash sensors fitted onto the door to control side and curtain airbags. However, they might deploy in a rear end collision if it’s serious enough.

This type of crash in and of itself is normally not enough to trigger deployment, but it could if it’s serious enough to trip the sensors (ex. when the car starts rolling or gets pushed into ramming another object head-first).

To know more, you can also see our posts on whether you can sell used airbags, how long do airbags last, and how much does it cost to replace airbags.


Airbags usually won’t go off if your car gets rear ended, because most vehicles don’t have crash sensors in the back, only in the front and sometimes on the sides inside the front doors.

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Manufacturers build their vehicles this way, because airbags are not designed to help with the risks involved in a rear end collision and could actually be a safety risk if they deploy in this scenario.

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