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Knee Air Bags Not That Helpful, Says IIHS

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When it comes to vehicle safety, the more air bags the better, right? Not necessarily. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) recently conducted a study that called the effectiveness of knee air bags into question.

Knee air bags are usually located on the lower half of the dashboard. Their goal is to reduce leg injuries and limit lower body movement to reduce risk to the chest and abdomen. 

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However, according to crash-test and real-world data compiled by IIHS, knee air bags don’t significantly reduce the risk of injuries — and may even help cause them.

“There are many different design strategies for protecting against the kind of leg and foot injuries that knee air bags are meant to address,” said Becky Mueller, IIHS researcher and study co-author. “Other options may be just as, if not more, effective.”

In the small overlap front crash testing data reviewed by IIHS, knee air bags were associated with a slightly higher risk for leg injuries and a slightly lower risk for head injuries. In moderate overlap testing, there was no change in risk.

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According to the IIHS analysis of real-world crash reports, knee air bags lowered injury risk by a statistically insignificant 0.5 percentage points.

If they’re not all that effective, how did knee air bags become so widespread? IIHS notes that manufacturers sometimes use them to help pass federally required tests involving crash-test dummies that aren’t wearing seat belts. The research conducted by IIHS didn’t cover unbelted crashes or tests, so it’s not clear if knee air bags would help reduce injuries in these types of collisions.

News Source: IIHS