Driving Tip of the Moment: Headrests

Driving Tip of the Moment:

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Take a look in any parking lot. Have you ever noticed that the headrests in most cars are usually not adjusted? They're in the same position (all the way down) as when they came off the assembly line! This is very dangerous.

Most accidents, even those occurring at under 10 miles per hour, cause the body to move within the seat. This is why seat belts are so important. Headrests are specifically designed to work in concert with seatbelts. In most front/rear crashes, the head moves and twists on the neck. The headrest is the safety device that prevents the head from snapping backwards and causing whiplash. In all safety studies, statistics have proven over and over that due to poorly designed headrests and improperly adjusted headrests, neck injuries are very high, even in the most minor accidents.

Here's how to adjust a headrest: Feel the back of your head. There is a space at the very top of your neck, where the base of your skull begins. Position the headrest so that its point of contact meets that location on your skull. Of course, before you start the car, your headrest and your passenger's headrest should be adjusted properly, at the same time you buckle up.

And now the bad news. In the United States, there are many vehicles, including pickup trucks and SUVs, that have dangerous headrests. In many cars, the headrests are integrated into the seat, and therefore not adjustable. There are other cars with stationary headrests, at a height that may not be suitable for all drivers. These, as well, are not adjustable. As well, it is nearly impossible to find rear-seat headrests, particularly adjustable units, except in high-end European imports. These are mandatory in many European countries.

A recent study was performed on head restraints on all vehicles for import into the United States, and the results were horrifying. Most cars were rated very poorly, and only a few high-end imports provided good protection. Not surprisingly, the only model of Cadillac with an acceptable headrest design is the Catera, the only Cadillac that Cadillac did not design themselves. If you want to read more on this topic visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's report on head restraints.

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Steven Jay Bernstein
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Hauppauge, NY 11788 USA
updated Wednesday, November 12, 1997 17:31:59