If you’ve ever had the misfortune of being involved in a car accident or known someone who has, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with whiplash. Whiplash is the most common injury sustained in motor vehicle accidents, and is a colloquialism used to describe an injury caused by the sudden and forceful movement of the head – like the snap of a whip.
According to the journal Transportation Safety and Environment, neck injuries like whiplash make up a whopping 90% of injuries reported in rear-end auto accidents, though they can occur in any type of collision – even at speeds as low as five mph. While unpleasant, symptoms of minor whiplash will usually resolve on their own within a matter of days or weeks. However, between 12% to 50% of whiplash-sufferers are estimated to be still experiencing painful symptoms or whiplash associated disorders a year after their accident.
While there is no crystal ball that can predict when your next car accident will happen, there are easy steps you can take today to save your neck down the road.
Just say no to low headrests
You may think your headrest is just that – a place to rest your head. But headrests, technically called head-restraints, were designed more for your safety than your comfort. If your headrest is currently in a low position or is too far back from your head, there will be no effective protection for your head and neck in a collision.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the safest placement for your headrest height is at your head’s center of gravity – roughly three to five inches from the top of your head. Essentially, the top of your headrest should be flush with the top of your head, or at least the top of your ears. Ideally, your head should also not be further than two inches from your headrest while you’re driving. The higher and closer your headrest is, the less likely whiplash is to occur.
Make sure your next car is up to code
According to Consumer Reports, the federal regulations for safe head-restraint height and distance came into effect in 2005 and were phased-in by the model year 2009. In a rear-crash study from 2005, the IIHS rated nearly 50% of all car model front head-restraints “poor.” By 2014, the IIHS rated 95% of car models “good” because of the new regulations.
If your car model is older than 2009, there’s a good chance your head-restraints aren’t up to code. When you’re ready to purchase your next vehicle or want to see how your current model ranks, you can check how different cars compare in head-restraint safety on the IIHS website to ensure your next vehicle protects your head.
Your next accident may be unavoidable, but whiplash doesn’t have to be. By following the safety tips above, you can help yourself to prevent the anguish and costs of a whiplash injury.