Headrests which are also called head restraints are one of the safety features in the automotive industry. They are attached or integrated into the top of each seat to limit the backward movement of the adult occupant’s head when there is a collision. This is to prevent or mitigate whiplash or injury to the cervical vertebrae.
Whiplash occurs when the neck snaps back from a sudden movement, usually upon impact in a collision. The symptoms of whiplash can be as mild as neck stiffness or tenderness, or as serious as decreased range of movement, dislocation or fracture. Whiplash can also include difficulty swallowing, headaches and memory loss.
What is a whiplash injury?
Whiplash injury is a type of neck injury caused by sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways. It occurs when the soft tissues in the neck become stretched and damaged.
The headrest became a mandatory safety feature for cars in the late 1960s and ever since then, has prevented thousands of serious injuries.
There are different types of headrests developed by manufacturers over the years to protect the occupants of their car from whiplash. Below are the various types of headrest available:
1: Integrated headrest or fixed headrest:
This headrest that is not height adjustable and cannot be detached from the seat or the vehicle structure except by the use of tools or following the partial or total removal of the seat.
2: Adjustable headrest:
This type of head rest is capable of being positioned to fit the morphology of the seated occupant. The device may permit horizontal movement, known as tilt adjustment, and/or vertical movement, known as height adjustment.
3: Active headrest:
This type comes with a device designed to automatically improve headrest position and/or geometry during an impact.
4: Automatically adjusting headrest:
This refers to a headrest that automatically adjusts the position of the headrest when the seat position is adjusted.
In order to prevent the whiplash injury that may occur as a result of an accident, it is advisable to have one’s headrest set accordingly.
Research shows that a poorly positioned headrest can cause more serious injury than no headrest at all.
Keep these two points in mind:
1: The top of the headrest should be at the top of your head – or at least as high as the top of your ears. If it is lower than your ears, in a collision, your head will be thrown back over the headrest causing severe whiplash.
2: The second requirement is that the back of your head should be about five centimetres from the headrest. Up to ten centimetres is acceptable, but the further away your head is from the headrest, the greater the distance your head will travel before hitting it in a collision.
Tips to prevent whiplash
Raise your head rest – As research shows, most headrests aren’t high enough to prevent injury. The top of your headrest should be at the top of your head, or at least the top of your ears.
Always wear your seat belt – Your seat belt keeps you in position during impact.
Sit up straight – Sitting upright helps you stay focused and drive safer, and it enables your seatbelt and headrest to protect you better in the event of a collision.
Don’t tailgate – Give yourself plenty of room between vehicles to hit the brakes should the car in front of you stop suddenly. That way, you won’t catch the driver behind you by surprise either.
Position yourself for a crash – If you do have time to react before a collision, lean back so that your head is touching the head restraint and look straight ahead to minimize any whiplash effect.
The next time you get into your car, tilt your head back to touch your headrest. If it’s too low or too far away, adjust it accordingly before driving off. This small action could save your neck.
As fancy as the headrests of your car look, they have a vital role to play when it comes to your safety while driving.
The right position is critical!