November 15, 2004

Most seats/head restraints rated ‘poor’ by safety organization

Arlington, Virginia – Using a new dynamic test and a dummy designed especially for rear impact testing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has rated 73 seat/head restraint combinations available in 63 car models sold in the U.S. market. Ratings of good, acceptable, marginal, or poor indicate the range of occupant protection from whiplash injury in rear-end crashes at low to moderate speeds.

Only 8 of the 73 seat/head restraints that were dynamically tested earned overall ratings of good. Sixteen are acceptable, and 19 are rated marginal. The other 30 seat/head restraint combinations that were tested are rated poor, as are 24 seats that weren’t tested because of inadequate geometry.

Among the seat/head restraints that were tested dynamically, the winners are the ones in Volvos (all models) and Saab 9-2X and 9-3 models. These are rated good. So are the seat/head restraints in the Jaguar S-Type, Subaru Impreza, and some Volkswagen New Beetles. The dynamic test performance of the 2004 Toyota Corolla’s seat/head restraint also was good, but this car’s overall rating is acceptable because the head restraint’s geometry is rated acceptable.

A total of 54 seat/head restraint combinations are rated poor overall.
“It’s obvious that some automakers are doing a better job than others of designing seats and head restraints to protect their customers’ necks in rear crashes,” Lund says. “Especially disappointing is that so many car models still have head restraints with poor or marginal geometry. Good geometry is a simple and necessary first step toward adequate protection, and seats with bad geometry cannot begin to protect many taller occupants.”

Full details about the seat and head restraint ratings can be found at the Institute’s web-site,

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