SGIC Praises New Head Restraints for Reducing Whiplash

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SGIC testing has revealed that new car shoppers are less likely to suffer whiplash in a collision thanks to better-designed head restraints.

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

New car shoppers are less likely to suffer whiplash in a collision thanks to better-designed head restraints, testing by car insurance provider SGIC has revealed.

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

The 2009 results revealed 71 per cent of new cars now rate as either 'good' or 'acceptable'. This compares to 31 per cent only five years ago, when testing commenced.

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.

SGIC Head of Research Robert McDonald said while the improving results were pleasing, 29 per cent of new cars only scored 'marginal' or 'poor,' with commercial vehicles in particular faring badly.

"Volvo and Saab are two manufacturers that have made significant advancements in improving head restraint design," said Mr McDonald.

"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 the occupant's movement forward thereby providing support as the body is thrown in a whiplash motion.

"Best performer of the locally produced vehicles was the Ford Falcon, with the FG model Falcon achieving a 'good' rating. Just as importantly, 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 the current set of results. All three commercial vehicles which were tested fared poorly.

"Hopefully manufacturers that have performed poorly take these results into consideration and realize head restraint design can improve significantly for little additional cost. Several manufacturers, for example, have received good results despite not having an active** head restraint."

Mr McDonald said whiplash, often caused by poor head restraints, costs the Australian community hundreds of millions of dollars per year.* It remained a common injury in motor vehicle collisions - particularly in rear end collisions.

"The likelihood of a neck injury occurring in a car crash can be significantly reduced by better head restraint design. Passengers can also be proactive in adjusting the head restraint to suit their seating position," said McDonald.

The full test results are available at

SGIC offers the following 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, seat belt 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 SGIC
SGIC provides Car Insurance, motorcycle insurance, home insurance and more for South Australia.

Insurance issued by Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 trading as SGIC. When making decisions about the product you should consider the Product Disclosure Statement available from SGIC.


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