February 16, 2004

50% of drivers have their head restraints adjusted too low

Alexandria, Virginia – A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that less than half of all adjustable head restraints were adjusted upwards to their proper height.

“Headrests can go a long way toward reducing neck injuries in the event of a rear-end collision,” notes Buzz Rodland, Chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association. “But they’re only effective when positioned correctly relative to the driver’s head.”

According to research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a correctly positioned headrest should meet the following criteria:

  • Headrests should ideally be positioned two inches or less from the rear of the driver’s head, and never more than four inches.

  • When adjusting for height, the bulk of the headrest should stand directly behind the driver’s head, at ears level. In the event of whiplash, the headrest should contact your head first, not the neck.

Unfortunately, in many older model vehicles, proper headrest adjustment is difficult if not impossible. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 1995 only three percent of vehicles had head restraints rated “good,” while an astonishing 82 percent were rated “poor.”

Since then, there has been a marked improvement in overall standards. In the 2003 model year, 45 percent of vehicle head restraint systems were rated “good,” while only 10 percent of systems were rated “poor.”

“Automakers are doing a much better job of designing safe headrests, but it’s still very important that motorists take the time to manually adjust them,” said Rodland. “Far too many people are driving with headrests in the lowest possible position, and as a result, they aren’t getting any of the safety benefits.”

For more information on proper headrest adjustment, visit www.aiada.org/headrestsafety.

Connect with Autos.ca