Whiplash can have detrimental consequences on your quality of life, not to mention your pocket book. As one of the most common auto injuries, whiplash costs Americans more than $29 billion annually.1 But there’s an easy way to minimize your risk of whiplash that few people take advantage of: proper head-rest positioning.
Studies show that properly adjusting your car’s head rest, technically called a head restraint, can reduce your risk of whiplash by at least 24%.2 Despite this easy preventative measure, few people know about proper head-restraint positions. In a new study of drivers at an Irish university, researchers found that 73% of drivers did not know correct horizontal head-restraint positions although the majority of people could identify correct vertical head-restraint positions.3 Even if people could identify correct positions, that did not mean that they actually had proper positioning. Drivers under 30 years old and males were more likely to have poorer head-rest positioning. Despite that females often had better head-restraint positions, in general, whiplash affects more women than men. Researchers point out this demonstrates that while head restraints play a significant role in whether someone has whiplash, there are a number of other contributing factors as well.
Researchers believed that a combination of improved driver education and manufacturer innovation could greatly improve head-restraint positioning and the safety of drivers.
How do I adjust my head rest?
- The top of your head restraint should be as high as your eye level. Ask a friend to assist you in determine your head-restraint height.
- Your head should be as close to the head restraint as possible, preferably touching but no more than 2-3 inches away.
- “Whiplash statistics.” Whiplash Prevention Campaign. Accessed December 20, 2011.http://www.whiplashprevention.org/Employers/WhiplashMatters/Pages/Statistics.aspx.
- Farmer, C.M., Wells, J.K., & Werner, J.V. Relationship of head restraint positioning to driver neck injury in rear-end crashes. Accident Analysis and Prevention.1999; 31:722.
- McCreesh, K., S. Arthurs, S. Horgan, L. Keane and L. Meagher. “Vehicle head restraint positioning knowledge and behaviours in a sample of Irish drivers.” International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion. 2011, September; doi:10.1080/17457300.2011.628754.
- “Prevent Injury, Adjust your Headrest.” CAA South Central Ontario. Accessed December 28, 2011. http://www.caasco.com/insurance/auto-vehicle-insurance/adjust-your-headrest.jsp.
- “How to Adjust Your Head Restraint.” The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. July 2005. Accessed December 28,2011. http://www.rospa.com/roadsafety/info/adjust_head_restraints.pdf.