Police cars and air bags

Are police cars altered so the air bag doesn’t go off as easily as it would on a normal car? Not that air bags go off “easily” necessarily. I know it takes a fairly substantial thump to set them off.
But it seems that police cars will take a hit like that with some regularity in the course of chasing another vehicle, for instance. Not always enough to constitute a major crash, but enough of a head-on hit that I would expect the air bag to go off if I did the same thing in my car.
It would be a major inconvenience, not to mention expensive and dangerous, to have the air bag go off when the police car bumps the car it’s chasing, and they regularly use an intervention technique (the PIT maneuver) that involves hitting the fleeing car with the police car’s front fender. From what I’ve seen, the ensuing wreck often includes the police car bumping the other car vigorously head on.

C’mon! Nobody has the answer to this??

This Ford police car site doesn’t seem to say there’s anything special about police car airbags, it just cautions you not to mount any equipment in front of the deployment area:

According to this site, “air bags are typically designed to deploy in frontal and near-frontal collisions, which are comparable to hitting a solid barrier at approximately 8 to 14 miles per hour (mph).”

Just hitting a suspect’s back fender with your front fender would not cause an airbag to deploy. I do see mostly State Police units around here with bars like this on the front, if the bars are all that are hit, the airbag will not deploy:

I also see at least one company advertises a switch to disable the passenger side airbag:

I was watching one of those shows and they said that sometimes fleeing criminals will intentionally try to get the police car’s airbag to deploy by forcing a collision.

Air bags aren’t that easy to deploy in my experience. I have been hit head on with a combined speed of about 20 mph and I rear ended a group of cars at about 15 mph and the air bags did not deploy either time. I would think that the requirements for a police car air bag deployment and a regular car would be almost the same. The bag has to quickly sense an impact above and certain threshold and then act on it. Car manufacturers really don’t want them going off unnecessarily unless the risk of them being deployed is exceeded by the impact. Air bags can maim or kill so the tolerance needs to be just right. I don’t believe side swipes and minor collisions that the police might be into would even cause a normal car’s air bags to deploy in most cases. The air bag sensors are directional so a head on impact that is powerful enough to set it off will probably mean the car shouldn’t be used in pursuit anymore.

I got in an accident with my '96 Caprice, a civillian version of a popular interceptor.
A lady in a Ford ZX2/Escort coupe ran a light and smashed into me at an intersection (I guess my car WAS an interceptor…) and her air bags went off. Her car looked like it had a broken transaxle, the radiator was smashed, the front of the car was basically NAKED, her lights were history and both air bags deployed… it was obviously totalled.
My car… didn’t take as much damage, no air bags went off. Basically bent my hood and my fender a little. The tires wanted to rub the fender when I drove over bumps, but it was actually drivable, at least for a short distance.
I’ll submit I could probably have forced a ZX2 off of the road with that car without the air bags going off, unless the driver was smart enough to put it on a twisty road and outcorner me.

I always heard they have the airbag turned off in police cars.

To my knowledge their is nothing different with the airbags in the crown vics we use.

:rolleyes: that’s what I get for posting and watching TV at the same time.

Ummmmm. . . no offense Shagnasty, but that’s why folks call y’all Massholes on the road. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on the head-on incident (at the very least, the other guy should have gotten out of your way), but “rear ended a group of cars at about 15 mph”? I’m terrified that you’ll come to Jersey and drive on the same roads as me - and I’m talking about New Jersey , where we have notoriously horrible drivers!!!

Just joking with ya’, (and I’m not from NJ, BTW. But seriously, how did you manage to hit “a group of cars”?

Nope same airbags as every other car.
We sold some car to the California Highway patrol. Same airbags, same software, same everything.