Whiplash warning for drivers

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The Independent Online
Over half of motorists are risking serious neck injuries because their head restraints are badly adjusted, according to a survey by the RAC.

A spot check by the motoring organisation found that 55 per cent of head restraints were set at the wrong position to prevent whiplash injuries in the event of an accident.

Edmund King, campaigns manager of the RAC, said: "The top of the head restraint should be set level with the top of the driver's head rather than at neck height. If it is at neck height, in an accident the head is thrown back over the top of it and it can be worse than having no restraint at all."

Canadian research found that as men are generally taller than women and restraints are generally set too low, twice as many men as women have poorly positioned restraints.

Mr King said that while whiplash is classified as a minor injury, the after-effects are often severe. Sufferers spend an average of 39 days off work and at least 8 per cent have not recovered fully four years after the accident.

A recent study by the Transport Research Laboratory found that 70 per cent of people slightly injured in road accidents suffered whiplash. The average compensation for whiplash injury is pounds 1,200 and the RAC says that research by the Department of Transport suggests that the cost to the UK economy is pounds 2bn per year.

The RAC is combining with its European counterparts to press the European Commission to lobby for universal standards of head restraint. The RAC says they should be required to have a minimum height, be fitted in such a way as to reduce the distance between the head and the restraint and should be stiffer and tougher than many of the existing restraints.

Better restraints would not only reduce the seriousness of injuries in many crashes, but also prevent many injuries.