Seat whiplash safety improving
A survey of car seats conducted by Thatcham’s in 2010 showed that 51% of cars on sale in 2010 (not just new cars) had seats that were rated as ‘good’ for offering protection against whiplash. This compares to only 35% in 2008. Of the new seats that were tested, 68% were rated ‘good.’ This indicates that car manufacturers are improving the safety of seats; new seats are more likely to be designed to protect from whiplash.
Whiplash is an injury to the neck. It is most commonly caused by a rear-impact vehicle collision. The force of the impact can force the torso to travel forwards quicker than the head and this causes over-extension of the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck.
Whiplash is the most common injury in car crashes. Around 1 in 5 people who are involved in a rear impact car collision suffer symptoms of whiplash, including pain and stiffness in the neck. That’s over 200,000 whiplash injuries every year. Of these, 2,000 cases will involve permanent injuries and a few of the most serious cases will result in a fracture or break to the neck, causing serious injury such as paralysis or death. In one study, 12% of whiplash victims had not recovered six months after their injury.
A seat will offer protection from whiplash if the head is properly supported in an accident. Making sure the head restraint is properly adjusted is an extremely important part of this. The top of the head restraint should be level with the top of the head. If it is lower, the head could be forced up and over the top of the head restraint in an accident. The back of the head rest should also be as close as possible to the back of the head. Some models of car include a feature called ‘Pro Active Head Restraints’ that adapts to accidents that occur when the driver is ‘out of position,’ for example, at a roundabout where the driver may be leaning forward. If sensors detect a rear-impact collision, springs inside the head restraint are activated so that it moves forward and up to meet and support the head. This minimises the risk of injury. However, this feature is only available in very few cars.
Seats may also be designed to be ‘reactive’ or ‘passive.’ A reactive seat is designed so that both seat and head restraint absorb energy from a rear-end crash, protecting the occupant. A passive seat uses foam technology in the seat to absorb energy from a rear-end crash, whilst the head restraint supports the head.
An unsafe seat will provide almost no protection from whiplash in an accident. According to Thatcham’s research, 9% of cars on sale in 2010 were rated as ‘poor’ for protection from whiplash. The cars that fell into this category were from a range of manufacturers and covered a range of different car types. Examples include an expensive luxury sedan, a people carrier designed for families and a ‘supermini’ designed for city living.
Although it is a legal requirement that all new cars have head restraints installed, there is nothing to stop car owners removing head restraints after they have purchased a car or selling the car second-hand without the head restraints. Campaigners are calling for changes in the law that emphasise the importance of head restraints in minimising injuries in car accidents and also for greater pressure on car manufacturers to use seats that provide protection from whiplash.
Whiplash can be extremely painful and can restrict movement. This can affect your everyday life and your ability to work. If you are involved in a car accident and suffer a whiplash injury, speak to a doctor. You may be prescribed pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication. For most whiplash injuries, doctors recommend gentle exercise and stretching of the neck to strengthen the muscles. This may be extremely painful but immobilisation, such as through wearing a collar, can make the injury worse. At the scene of the accident, take the name and insurance details of any other drivers involved. If there were any witnesses, try to take their details too. Witness statements will add evidence to back up your story and would be valuable in a claim for compensation. You may also want to take photos of the scene of the accident and the damage caused to your car.
Every day, around 1,200 whiplash claims are submitted and insurers pay out nearly £2 billion every year in compensation (figures from the Association of British Insurers). If you have suffered a whiplash injury in a road traffic accident, Macks Solicitors may be able to help you claim compensation. A compensation payment can help cover lost wages, your insurance excess and any other expenses. It can also help to compensate for the pain and suffering caused. Contact us to speak to one of our experts, without obligation.