The key to cutting whiplash – use your head restraint

15 November 2004 #SMMT News

Motor industry trade association SMMT today reacted with concern over results published by Thatcham, following new crash tests using car seats. While manufacturers will examine the performance of individual seats in detail, the industry believes that some aspects of the tests are too crude, while the way the results have been interpreted tell only part of the story.

Of particular concern are seats to which Thatcham has assigned a poor or marginal rating on static tests. These are automatically given a ‘poor’ rating for overall performance, with no additional dynamic test.

Those that are tested with a sled and ‘whiplash crash dummy’, are not set up with the head restraint located at an optimum height. Instead Thatcham use a standard mid-height setting which could adversely affect results. Drivers should be advised that the best protection comes from a head restraint adjusted in accordance with guidance set out in owners’ manuals.

The way Thatcham has interpreted different performance criteria is also a cause of concern. SMMT believes results could be misleading since they are not supported by real world accident data. More research is recommended.

Christopher Macgowan SMMT chief executive commented, ‘The idea that we fit seats to new cars that are unsafe is nonsense. The reality is that millions of pounds have been invested in improving safety. Features like pre-tensioned seat belts, belt force limiters, active head restraints and anti-submarining seats are testament to the importance the industry places on protecting occupants.

He added, ‘Thatcham’s own research suggests that nearly three quarters of whiplash injuries could be prevented if drivers adjusted their head restraints properly. We understand the insurance industry’s desire to drive down the £1.6bn costs in whiplash compensation but we need a little more balance in the debate.’

SMMT also believes there needs to be a joined-up approach to car seat testing. The motor industry is working with a number of bodies to implement global safety standards for seats. If consumers are not to be confused by different tests and criteria, tests driven by the insurance sector need to be consistent with these objectives.

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