Motorists Putting Their Necks On The Line

A majority of motorists (55%) are putting themselves at risk of painful neck injuries because of incorrectly positioned head restraints according to spot check surveys by the RAC Foundation as part of "Think Before You Drive Month". Whiplash injuries are costing the country an estimated £2 billion per year* and thousands of these injuries could be avoided if motorists positioned their head restraints correctly.

Think Before You Drive! Month is a campaign promoted by the RAC Foundation in conjunction with the FIA Foundation and Bridgestone to help motorists understand the four easy steps that they can take to improve safety on the roads.

Researchers estimate that as many as 80% of all rear impact injuries result in at least one occupant suffering from a neck or spinal injury. ** This has lead to the RAC Foundation advising all motorists as part of "Think Before You Drive" month that they should ensure that their head restraints and their passengers’ are properly positioned before commencing their journey.

Motorists are urged to follow advice in the Think before you drive! Free leaflet:

The top of the head restraint should be level with the top of the driver’s head, or at least no lower than eye level and the restraint should be as close as possible to the back of the head when sitting comfortably in the driving seat of the car.

The survey found that most head restraints were left in the lowest position and therefore offered no protection to most drivers. Indeed for taller drivers such a position can lead to more severe injuries.

Wider introduction of active head restraints and tougher legislative requirements would also enhance safety. Active head restraints are designed to automatically shorten the gap between the head and head restraint in a collision, offering improved levels of protection from whiplash injuries.

The Foundation is also calling for:

  • Motor manufacturers to improve head restraint safety design to offer drivers and passengers greater protection. Advice on the optimum position of a particular adjustable head restraint system should be clearly communicated to the owner via the manual.
  • Adjustable head restraints should be introduced on all cars.
  • "Think before you drive month" should be followed periodically by public information campaigns for drivers and passengers to ensure that they adjust their head restraints properly.
  • Legislators to improve the minimum requirements for head restraint design.

Whiplash is officially classified as a minor injury but the after effects are often severe. Sufferers spend an average of 39 days off work and at least 8% of people have not fully recovered at least up to four years after the accident took place. Research*** by the Transport Research Laboratory found that almost 70% of people slightly injured in road accidents had suffered whiplash, sometimes in conjunction with other injuries. Even mild symptoms, headaches, muscle stiffness and dizziness, can last for months.

Edmund King, executive director, RAC Foundation said;

"Our survey as part of National Think Before You Drive month shows that more than fifty per cent of motorist are putting their necks on the line unnecessarily. Many whiplash injuries should easily be avoided if motorists took a few seconds to check that their head restraints are in the right position.

"This two billion pound pain in the neck could be a thing of the past if motorists were given clearer advice on the correct position of head restraints and followed it".

David Ward, the FIA Foundation's director general, said:

"Whiplash injuries are painful, costly and preventable. Just thinking for a second and adjusting your head restraint to the right position can make all the difference. But car makers have a role to play too in ensuring that all head restraints meet the standard set by the best'.

20 July 2005 Staff

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