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Proper fitting head restraints can protect against whiplash

Many drivers wonder why their car's head restraints, commonly called head rests, don't fit comfortably. That's because they are designed to protect passengers instead of providing a comfortable place to rest their head.

Head restraints are supposed to protect passengers in the event of a car accident. Head restraints are designed to protect people in collisions, especially during rear-end collisions when the body is pushed forward. Whiplash and other head and neck injuries are common in rear-end collisions because a person's head and body are not able to move together because the head often lags behind the body and may snap back, causing whiplash.

Head restraints are supposed to prevent whiplash by keeping the head from bending too far back during an accident. Newer vehicles have better head restraints in them because the head rests are taller and better suited for different sized passengers.

While head restraints offer protection during rear-end collisions, passengers can take steps to increase their protection in the event of a crash. More recent vehicle safety tests have found that passengers can reduce injuries caused by whiplash by 40 percent if they adjust their head restraints to fit their specific size.

Safety experts say that head restraints should be adjusted to be as close to a passenger's head as it can comfortably be and it should be even with the top of a person's head to provide the best protection during an accident. Experts noted that it does not matter if a person's head is resting against the head restrain or not. The head restraint is more for protection during an accident and the safety benefits do not change if a person's head is resting against it or not in a crash.

Having your head restraint properly fitting for your specific size can help prevent more serious neck injuries in a rear-end collision so take the time to fit your head restraint now before it's too late.

Source: The Globe and Mail, "How should my car head rest be positioned?" Joanne Will, March 13, 2013

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