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April 25, 2024

Can You Get Pulled Over for Driving a Damaged Car? What You Should Know

Driving a damaged car is unquestionably risky. Considering the importance of road safety, driving a vehicle in poor condition may even have legal consequences.

Dealing with a car in need of repair is frustrating. The last thing you need is the stress of driving a car with defects while worrying about getting into trouble—but can you get pulled over for driving a damaged car? Here’s what you need to know to stay informed and prepared for any situation on the road. 

What Is the Law on Driving a Damaged Car?

Most jurisdictions have laws on driving a damaged car that requires vehicles to be in a safe, roadworthy condition. These laws and regulations vary depending on:

  • Your state
  • The specific area or region
  • The severity of damage 

If a car has significant damage that compromises its safety features or renders it unfit for operation on the road, it can result in legal penalties for anyone who gets behind the wheel. 

Law enforcement officers have the authority to issue citations or fines for drivers operating cars that pose a danger to themselves, their passengers, and other drivers on the road. In many states, if a car is found to be in a state of disrepair, drivers can face penalties that range from a mandatory repair order to the potential suspension of driving privileges. 

To ensure road safety and compliance with local laws and regulations, vehicle owners should regularly inspect and maintain their cars and promptly address any issues.

Can I Drive My Car After an Accident?

Whether your car is drivable after an accident depends on the extent of the damage and whether it’s safe to operate for you and others on the road. If the damage is minor or cosmetic, or doesn’t impact the car’s safety, you can drive your car after an accident. When severe damage occurs, it’s better to have your car towed and inspected by a qualified mechanic or technician before driving it again. 

How do you know if a car is drivable after an accident? Without a professional inspection, it can be difficult to determine the answer. 

While it’s always best to consult with an auto expert, knowing how to distinguish minor from severe damage can help you evaluate the issues and give you an idea as to whether your car might be safe to drive. 

Moderate to Severe Vehicle Damage

Damage that renders a car undrivable includes: 

  • Frame damage: Structural damage to the frame or chassis compromises the vehicle’s stability and integrity. 
  • Airbag deployment: If airbags deployed in the accident, it’s not safe to drive again until they are properly replaced. 
  • Severe body damage: Extensive blows to the body panels, doors, or roof impact the structural integrity of the car, increasing the risk of injury to occupants. 
  • Engine damage: Damage to engine components such as the block or the cylinder head prevents the car from running properly. 
  • Suspension damage: Broken or bent suspension components affect steering and handling and can make driving hazardous. 
  • Transmission damage: A cracked transmission housing or damaged gears stop the car from functioning or shifting gears correctly. 
  • Wheel and axle damage: Bent or broken axles, wheels, or hubs can cause instability. 
  • Electrical system damage: Damage to the wiring, computer components, and other essential electrical components impairs a car’s safety systems and inhibits smooth operation. 

Each of these types of damage significantly influences the safety and performance of a vehicle and must be repaired before the car is drivable again. 

Minor Vehicular Damage and Issues

These examples of minor damage typically don’t affect a vehicle’s drivability: 

  • Cosmetic damage: Light, superficial damage to body panels like dents or scratches generally doesn’t compromise structural integrity. 
  • Broken lights or mirrors: Your vehicle is likely safe to drive with cracks or damage to exterior lights, turn signals, or side mirrors, as long as they don’t impede visibility or safety.
  • Small fluid leaks: Minor coolant or windshield washer fluid leaks don’t pose an immediate safety hazard. 
  • Fender dents and scratches: Small dents or scratches on the fenders usually don’t interfere with tire clearance or handling. 
  • Bumper scuffs: Scratches and small dents in a bumper, often from rear-end collisions, usually don’t impact underlying structural components. 
  • Minor interior damage: Damage to trim panels, upholstery, or dashboard displays doesn’t always affect the car’s safety systems. 

However, keep in mind that the damage your car sustains after an accident is not always immediately apparent. Just because a car appears drivable doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. It’s always a good idea to have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic or technician to rule out any hidden safety concerns. 

How Do You Know If a Car Is Drivable?

Checking for visible damage, testing essential functions, and listening for unusual noises can help you determine if your car is drivable. Some signs a car might not be drivable include: 

  • Warning lights illuminated on the dashboard
  • Broken windows or windshields
  • Visible structural damage to the frame, chassis, exhaust, or body panels
  • Obvious fluid leaks
  • Wheel damage or misalignment
  • Unusual noises when starting the engine or while driving

Other issues with essential functions, like braking or steering, may not show visible signs of damage but can significantly impair a car’s safety. Always have a professional inspect the vehicle if you suspect any issues—even minor ones—with these systems. 

Is It Safe to Drive with a Loose Bumper?

It may not be safe to drive with a loose bumper, as it’s risky to drive a vehicle with loose parts that could potentially fall off completely and pose a danger to other drivers and pedestrians. Because these things can happen unexpectedly, it’s best to address a loose bumper by securing it or repairing the issue before operating the vehicle. Doing so helps ensure safe driving conditions for yourself and others while you’re on the road. 

Can You Drive a Damaged Car to a Repair Shop?

In some cases, you can drive a damaged car to a shop for repairs if the car is road-safe. If the damage poses a safety risk on the road, it’s advisable to arrange for a tow to prevent further damage, accidents, and other consequences. It’s always illegal to drive a car that presents a hazard on the road. 

Consider the damage before deciding to drive to a repair shop. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and have the car towed instead. 

CARSTAR Helps Keep You on the Road

Don’t take any chances when it comes to a damaged car. Some damage may not seem to render a vehicle undrivable, but there are always risks associated with driving a damaged vehicle. It’s important to prioritize safety—yours and that of others around you. 

If you’re unsure whether you can drive a damaged car and maintain safety on the road, it’s time to talk to a qualified technician. 

At CARSTAR, we can help assess vehicle damage, perform car maintenance, and provide auto body repair solutions to help keep your car on the road. Schedule an appointment at your local CARSTAR today. 

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