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Whiplash

Tips on avoiding whiplash

Good seat design can reduce the risk of injury

Whiplash is the most common injury seen in motor vehicle crashes and, although officially classed as a minor injury, whiplash can lead to long, painful and debilitating symptoms for many years. Symptoms vary in nature and severity from relatively mild stiffness accompanied by headaches and occasional dizziness to more serious, long-term permanent problems. Whiplash is difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat, and is also expensive.Whilst the actual injury mechanisms of whiplash are still poorly understood it is clear that good car seat, and particularly good head restraint design and adjustment can play a significant role in reducing the risk and severity of whiplash in any car accident.

Tests by Thatcham

Working with partners around the world, the Insurance-backed Thatcham research centre, has developed a test which recreates a typical 10mph rear-end shunt and which is now being used to assess, rate and compare the performance of car seat and head restraint systems.

A special Rear Impact Dummy (biorid) is used to assess the forces acting on the neck and the way in which the head and neck are supported throughout the crash.

The best seats have large head restraints that support the occupant's head and neck through the crash and can mitigate the force of the crash. Many of the best performing seats now have special anti-whiplash features that can absorb the forces of the crash or move the head restraint automatically to ensure it's in the best place to reduce injury risk. Size, static position and adjustment are taken into account as well as dynamic performance.

Download a pdf of Thatcham's 2007 model year whiplash report (262kb)

Correct head restraint adjustment

Besides the importance of choosing a car model that offers good whiplash protection it's important too to make sure that the restraints in your car are adjusted properly.

For best protection against possible whiplash your head restraints should be:

  • As close as possible to, and ideally touching the back of your head.
  • At least as high as the top of your ears and ideally as high as the top of your head.

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