This year has seen an intense focus on whiplash injury and those who would profit unfairly, and leading to the undermining of the due process of law and justice. The concern must always be with the innocent car crash victim who genuinely suffers whiplash injury and must be given all the necessary help and support to make their rightful claim for whiplash compensation.
Motorists can also prevent the most serious consequences of a potential trauma to the neck / shoulder tissue and muscle by attending to an often overlooked item within their vehicle – the head restraint. Many studies have shown that more than 3 in every 5 of vehicle occupants are put at increased risk of whiplash or other injuries to the head, neck and shoulders simply because the head restraint has not been adjusted to be at head level each time a new journey is made.
Research has also found that vehicles with well designed head restraints can reduce injuries in rear-impact collisions by at least 25 per cent and even up to 45 per cent. Many older vehicles were manufactured with only a basic head rest installed rather than a fully shaped restraint and also, would not have a head rest attached at all to any of the rear passenger seats.
In 1995, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that only 3 per cent of head restraints were given an approval rating. Ten years later, the approval rating had risen to more than 50 per cent.
According to the IIHS many head restraints were either too low or too far away from an occupant’s head to provide effective protection against neck injury in rear-end impact. Today, most vehicle are fitted with a type of “reactive” head restraint.
A more standard version will automatically move up and forward under collision impact, activated by the weight of the person in the seat, while a more advanced type automatically moves up and forward at the start of the impact, activated by sensors on the bumper or within the car.
The key items that can be quickly checked each time before the journey begins is simply to ensure that the restraint is high enough and close enough. The top of the restraint should be in line with the top of the head or at least to the top of the ears and around 2 in from the back of the head or even closer for optimising neck protection.
While the head restraint tends to be known as a ‘headrest’ it should be remembered that they are essential safety features like a seat belt. When a car collision unfortunately occurs, a well-designed and properly adjusted head restraint helps to keep the head firmly aligned with the body rather than jerking out of control when propelled forward under the force of the impact, and reduces the chances of whiplash injury.