Smarter Driver: Neck restraints and headrests explained
Cooley On Cars
It's actually called a a neck strain or a neck sprain.
But it's one of the best known of the auto industries.
Also one of the most fraudulently claimed.
But it's a big business, $8.8 billion.
Insurance claims a year.
That's nearly as big a business as the NFL.
Now the most obvious technology to prevent whiplash is the headrest.
But my Cougar's a 67.
It doesn't have headrests.
By 68 they were getting popular as an option.
By 69 required on new cars in the US.
What we're looking for are head restraints that catch the head quickly.
What we don't want is for the head to lag behind the body so that the neck has to do all the work of pulling the head along.
The neck wasn't built to do that.
And that's how whiplash injuries can occur.
But head rests are pretty crude protection.
They've basically stopped you from going this way.
They do nothing for the forward motion.
Or to side to side.
There is some racing technology that does a lot better job.
Things like to hands technology, the head and neck support that gets you from the back, it tethers the helmet as well.
Tries to immobilize the head and neck a little more after a couple of very recent, very high profile deaths on the track.
Simpson also has one called a hybrid that does a. A triangulation of tethers to even further limit movement in various directions.
But none of this is coming to production cars, obviously.
Now lateral motion in our cars on the road is addressed a little bit by things like center air bags now from General Motors that are in a few cars.
And the side curtain airbags that fill up that space and can stop your head from some lateral movement.
[NOISE] They help al little.
They're really about head.
Now, of course, the air bag is right in front of you.
There's a lot to limit that forward movement.
But, again, it's largely an impact device more than a neck device.
But your head and neck are out there fairly exposed.
That's why it's good to know about the head rest restraint ratings on your car.
A lotta folks don't know about these.
But the IHS also rates those among their accident safety ratings.
Go to the IHS rankings for a car you're considering, dig down a little bit low on the page and you'll find head restraint ratings.
The are not all created equal.
Now most of us are not buying a new car any time soon so you're stuck with the one you've got.
Here's what you can do.
It pays to double check how you've got your headrest adjusted.
If you have them anyway.
First of all, the top of the headrest should meet the top of your head.
If you're tall like me, that's never gonna happen, so get it as far up as you can.
Second, you want the front of the headrest to be meeting the back of your head with as little space or none as possible.
A lot of cars have a movement or an adjustment there that will move the headrest aft or forth or just tilt the whole thing.
Roll it forward.
Figure out how your's works.
I bet you've never adjusted it on those criteria.
Remember it's called a head rest but it's not what it's for.
It's a neck restraint.
So make sure that you've got it set upright.
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