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How to properly adjust your headrest and prevent whiplash.

Jordan August 27, 2013
Back seat of a car and headrests.
Did you know that insurance companies spend approximately $4 billion annually to help accident victims recover from soft tissue injuries? The most common cause of these injuries is whiplash – trauma to the cervical neck region of the spine. Whiplash occurs when the head is pushed forward and then whipped back, which often happens as a result of two vehicles colliding.

Focusing specifically on whiplash, the Insurance Bureau of Canada conducted a national headrest adjustment study to assess whether drivers and passengers were using their headrest properly. The results indicated that only 14% of Canadian drivers have their headrest in a good position. That means 86% of Canadians drive at high risk! The study found that 23% of female drivers had their head restraint in a good position, compared to only 7% of men.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Headrests should ideally be positioned two inches or less from the rear of the driver’s head, and never more than four inches
  • When adjusting for height, the bulk of the headrest should stand directly behind the driver’s head, at ear-level
  • In the event of a collision, you want the headrest to contact your head first – not your neck

The graphic below should help illustrate:

Illustration showing a good position and poor position for the headrest. In a good position, the headrest should be aligned to the back of the head. In the poor position, the headrest is below the head and aligned with the neck.
Rear-end collisions account for 80% of whiplash and other soft tissue injuries in Canada. In fact, the Insurance Bureau of Canada believes that “if every driver and passenger were to perform the simple act of properly adjusting their headrests, the number of whiplash injuries could be reduced by 40%”.

Like seatbelts, headrests are an important safety feature that can help reduce severe injury in the event of a collision. Properly adjusting your headrest is an important step towards ensuring the safety of yourself and loved ones.

Were your headrests properly adjusted? Did this tutorial help? Let us know in the comments section below!