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Knee Airbags May be a Big Failure


When we think of a car’s safety features, we think of airbags. And you may already know that airbags in our cars are everywhere—in way more places than they used to be, many years ago. Side, and passenger airbags are pretty commonplace now. But did you know that there are also airbags lower down—at the level of your knees?

Yes, there is such a thing as knee airbags. Knee airbags are called that because they are at your knee level, but they don’t just protect your knees; their function is also to keep your entire lower body from being thrust forward into the frontal area of the vehicle in a collision.

How and Why Knee Airbags (are Supposed) to Work

In a typical major accident, the leg bones, like the fibula or tibia, can be crushed when the dashboard or steering column crumples in. That crushing usually goes downward into the knee and upper leg areas.

Stopping the lower body from being thrust forward also keeps the upper body from being thrown forward, or worse, from “sinking down” and thus under the steering wheel airbag in an accident, so knee airbags, at least in theory, help the entire body avoid injury.

Except that’s the way it is supposed to work in theory. In reality, things are a bit different at least according to some recent studies. Those studies show that knee airbags not only may not work as intended, but may actually be doing more harm than good.

They May be a Failure

The government study found that knee airbags were especially useless when people were not in a perfect, upright position, a position that many of us don’t maintain, especially on longer trips.  Laying back a bit, or putting a foot on a seat, are all things that drivers are routinely observed doing.

Even in perfect conditions, the injury rate with knee airbags only went down a few tenths of a point (from 7.9 to 7.4 percent which is statistically no real difference at all). And when the impact was frontal, to the driver’s part of the car, the injury rate with the knee airbags actually increased.

The government said that in its studies, the knee airbags didn’t cover enough areas, and didn’t absorb enough energy (which would seem to be the only two purposes of any airbags).

Why Are They There?

Knee airbags were found to help when the person in the car wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, although the lack of the seatbelt obviously causes way more problems that knee airbags could help, and hopefully, most of us no longer ride without a seatbelt.

Manufacturers continue to put knee airbags in cars, both to comply with government regulations, and to be able to name the knee airbags as a “safety feature,” regardless of their effectiveness.

Call the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, for help today if you have been injured in a car accident.




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