When it comes to safety features in a vehicle, airbags seem to be the first line of defense for most automakers. There have been many studies that have proven that a properly functioning airbag system can greatly reduce the amount of injury that a person will sustain in a car crash.
It is for this reason that in 1998, legislation was passed that made it mandatory for all cars and light trucks to be equipped with at least a front seat airbag system in the vehicle.
Most people are under the assumption that the more airbags a car has, the safer it is. However, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) has found that there is one type of airbag that actually doesn’t serve much of a purpose when it comes to keeping drivers and passengers safe.
How do car’s airbags help to keep occupants safe?
Vehicle airbags are designed to help cushion the impact of a crash. When you get into an accident, the impact can cause you to suddenly and violently be thrust into the hard surfaces of the car. An airbag system comes equipped with a sensor that can detect whenever you have been involved in a collision and will automatically deploy the airbags if you are traveling at speeds of around 15 mph or more.
All cars that were made in the U.S. from 1998 and on are mandated to provide front passenger and driver airbags that deploy during a frontal crash.
However, many automakers choose to provide a wide range of different airbag systems to help protect every occupant in the vehicle during various types of crashes. For instance, side airbags help to protect a person’s head and body from sustaining excessive injuries when their car is hit from the side.
Many auto manufacturers also choose to use curtain airbags, which deploy from the ceiling and provide your head with an extra layer of protection from the windows which are designed to shatter when hit with an extreme amount of force.
What type of airbag is considered not effective?
While the IIHS acknowledges that airbags are a crucial safety feature that can save lives during a car wreck, they have determined that there is not much benefit to having your car equipped with a knee airbag system.
Knee airbags are usually positioned just below the steering wheel. During a front crash, the knee airbags will deploy to help prevent your legs from being violently smashed into the steering column. While the idea seems like a good one on paper, the IIHS couldn’t really find any evidence of where these types of airbags had actually reduced the risk of any injury.
In fact, when they did an analysis on several real-world crashes, they had found the knee airbags had reduced injury by only approximately .5%.
It’s important to note that the analysis was conducted only on crashes where the occupants were reportedly using their seat belts as well. It is unclear how these types of airbags help unbuckled occupants.
Even though the knee airbags don’t seem to really help to protect your legs during a crash, many auto companies are still choosing to install them in order to help meet the federal car safety regulations. However, a senior research engineer for IIHS named Becky Mueller insists that there are other ways to protect occupants during a crash.
“There are many different design strategies for protecting against the kind of leg and foot injuries that knee airbags are meant to address. Other options may be just as, if not more, effective,” says Mueller.
Can these airbags be considered dangerous?
While knee airbags might not provide you with any sort of protection, they also don’t seem to be harmful in any way either. Other airbags systems, however, can be harmful if they are not used properly. When an airbag is deployed, it can be ejected with great force. It is for this reason, that you should always sit at least 10 inches away from where the airbags are stored and never allow a child who weighs less than 65 pounds to sit in the front seat.
Additionally, it was recently discovered that certain airbags system that was made by the manufacturer, Takata, were known to deploy in an “explosive manner,” which has resulted in severe injury and even death. In 2016, the company recalled all of its airbag systems that were installed between 2002 and 2015.
Having a defective airbag system such as this one has been considered fairly rare in the past, but motorist has been urged to Safe Airbags.com to see if their vehicle is under the airbag recall. If it is, then it is recommended that you take your car to your trusted service department to have your airbag system changed.