New Research Shows New Car Shoppers Less Likely to Suffer Whiplash

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New research by NRMA Insurance Queensland has revealed that new car shoppers are less likely to suffer whiplash in a collision thanks to better-designed head restraints in new cars.

Volvo and Saab are two manufacturers that have made significant improvements in head restraint design

NRMA Insurance Queensland testing has revealed new car shoppers are less likely to suffer whiplash in a collision thanks to better-designed head restraints in new cars.

International research conducted and funded by a number of car insurance providers, including NRMA Insurance in Australia, Thatcham Motor Insurance Research Centre in the UK and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the USA, tested head restraint effectiveness in 148 new cars.

The 2009 results revealed seven out of ten new cars scored a rating of 'good' or 'acceptable', compared to just three out of ten five years ago, when testing began.

The dynamic part of the test included a simulated low speed (15km/h) rear-end collision using a human sized dummy. Further static testing took into consideration the height of the head restraint and its distance from the passenger's head and the effectiveness of the surrounding cushion.

NRMA Insurance spokesperson Frank Adler praised the improvements, but noted head restraints in nearly 30 per cent of new cars tested still rated as 'marginal' or 'poor', with commercial vehicles among the worst.

"Volvo and Saab are two manufacturers that have made significant improvements in head restraint design," said Mr Adler.

"Volvo, for example, has seats which support the driver or passengers' entire back and head. In the event of a rear-end collision the back rest follows your movement forward to provide support as the body is thrown into a whiplash motion."

The best performer of the locally produced cars was the Ford Falcon, with the FG model Falcon achieving a 'good' rating. This comes on the back of the Falcon's five star ANCAP rating.

"Unfortunately there does seem to be a trend to skip on safety features in commercial vehicles and this has been highlighted in our results. All three commercial vehicles which were tested fared poorly," Mr Adler said.

"Hopefully manufacturers that have performed poorly take these results into consideration and realise they can improve safety with better head restraint design for little additional cost."

Mr Adler said whiplash, often caused by poor head restraints, costs the Australian community hundreds of millions of dollars per year.* He encouraged new car buyers to take safety into consideration when purchasing a car. Only 18 per cent% of Queensland consumers make it their top consideration when choosing a car although most rank it in their top three.

"Better head restraint design can certainly reduce the risk of a neck injuries occurring in car crashes. Passengers can also be proactive in adjusting the head restraint to suit their seating position," said Mr Adler.

Full results are available at http://www.nrmaqld.com.au

** Based on Woolcott Research, commissioned in February 2009 by NRMA Insurance

Tips for motorists with manual head restraints

  • Adjust the head restraint so the top of the restraint is above eye-level
  • Every driver is different, so check the head restraint every time you get in the car
  • Before turning on the ignition, adjust the seat, mirrors, seatbelt and head restraint.

Types of Head restraints

  • Active - a head restraint or seat system that takes an active approach to injury prevention, designed to deploy automatically in the event of a collision
  • Automatic - a head restraint that automatically adjusts its position when the seat is adjusted by the occupants
  • Manual - a head restraint that is manually positioned to suit the passenger or driver.

This is the most common type of head restraint found in vehicles on the Australian market.

About NRMA Insurance Queensland
NRMA Insurance provides Car Insurance, motorcycle insurance, home insurance and more for Queensland.
Insurance issued by Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 trading as NRMA Insurance. When making decisions about the product you should consider the Product Disclosure Statement available from NRMA Insurance.

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