December 8, 2004

U.S. safety department announces upgraded rule for head restraints

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a new standard for head restraints to reduce whiplash injuries in rear-end collisions.

In the U.S., more than 270,000 whiplash injuries occur annually in motor vehicle crashes. When all vehicles meet the new requirement, the upgraded head restraint standard is expected to reduce that number by nearly 17,000 annually.

The new standard will require head restraints to be higher and positioned closer to the head. The standard will also, for the first time, require adjustable head restraints to lock in place once properly positioned.

“By standardizing the best practices in head restraint performance, we can reduce the most common form of injury in rear-end collisions,” said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D. “Many of these injuries are more than just a pain in the neck. They become chronic, painful, debilitating and costly.”

All passenger vehicles, including cars, sport utility vehicles, pickups, and vans that are manufactured on or after September 1, 2008 will be covered under the upgraded standard.

New requirements will apply to front seat head restraints, providing more protection for the driver and the passenger next to the window. Rear seat head restraints, when installed as standard or optional features, will also be subject to a set of new requirements.

The cost per vehicle of meeting the upgraded head restraint requirement is estimated at $4.51 for front seats and $1.13 for rear seats equipped with head restraints.

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