Good seat design and adjustment can reduce injury

Whiplash is the most common injury in vehicle crashes

Whiplash is the most common injury in vehicle crashes

You can get a whiplash injury in a relatively minor rear-end shunt, particularly if the head restraint on your seat isn't adjusted properly. You might feel anything from mild stiffness with headaches and dizziness to more serious and long-term impairment.

Whiplash is the most common injury in vehicle crashes and can lead to long painful and debilitating symptoms for many years, even though it is officially classed as a minor injury.

Symptoms vary from relatively mild stiffness accompanied by headaches and occasional dizziness to more serious, long-term permanent impairment.

Whiplash is difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat.  It is also expensive:

  • Whiplash personal injury claims are putting growing pressure on insurance premiums.
  • Since 2006 there has been a 60% rise in the number of personal injury claims made while the number of reported collisions on Britain’s roads has fallen by 20% over the same period
  • 1,500 people now claim for whiplash injury every day following a motor collision.

The actual injury mechanisms of whiplash are still poorly understood but it is known that a good car seat, and in particular good head restraint design/adjustment can reduce the risk and severity of whiplash injuries in any car accident.

BioRID - rear impact test dummy

BioRID helps test car seats

Tests by Thatcham

Working with global partners, the Insurance-backed Thatcham research centre, has developed a test which recreates a typical 10mph rear-end impact. This is now being used to assess, rate and compare the performance of car seat and head restraint systems.

A special Rear Impact Dummy (BioRID) measures the forces acting on the neck and the way the head and neck are supported through the crash.

Seats that work well have large head restraints that support your head and neck through the crash and can reduce the forces acting on your neck in the crash. Many seats now have special anti-whiplash features that absorb crash forces or move the head restraint automatically to position it in the best place to reduce injuries.

Thatcham's whiplash ratings »

Adjust your head restraint properly

You should check regularly that the head restraints in your car are adjusted properly.

For best protection the head restraint should be:

  • Touching the back of your head, or as close as possible to it.
  • At least as high as the top of your ears, and ideally as high as the top of your head.

Government consultation

Reducing the number and cost of whiplash claims
(Ran from 11 Dec 2012 to 8 Mar 2013)

Increases in claims for compensation relating to whiplash injuries are having a significant impact on the motor insurance premiums paid by individuals, families and businesses.

The Ministry of Justice undertook a consultation on the creation of independent medical panels to support better diagnosis of possible whiplash injuries. In addition, the consultation looked at whether the small claims track threshold for damages for personal injury claims arising from road traffic accidents should be raised.

On 15 March, shortly after the Ministry of Justice consultation closed, The Transport Committee announced its own enquiry into whiplash which reported on 31 July 2013.

AA Insurance has welcomed the Transport Committee's report and awaits the Government's response with interest.

(31 August 2013)