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Headrests are often overlooked as a safety feature in cars, but they can provide a significant level of protection against whiplash injuries in a car accident. 

Installing a suitable headrest in your vehicle can help reduce the risk of serious injury. Research has shown that adjustable or active head restraints offer higher levels of protection than traditional fixed headrests because you can easily adjust the height and angle of the headrest according to your height and posture while driving.

How Do Headrests Prevent Whiplash Injury?

Whiplash is an injury to the soft tissue of the neck resulting from the rapid backward and forward movement of the head and neck during a car crash. 

Rear-end collisions account for 80% of whiplash injuries in car accidents. Rear end collisions typically occur at stop lights, intersections, or in stop & go traffic when the rear car slams into the front car that has stopped or slowed down significanly. The impact of the rear impact causes the body and head to snap forward and then backwards in a whipping motion, which causes a few things to happen: 

  1. The head moving around can cause injury to the neck muscles, tendons and ligaments, typically seen in the form of whiplash.
  2. In more serious whiplash injuries, the brain can rattle around inside the head, hitting the inside of the skull and causing a traumatic brain injury, typically known as a concussion. Whiplash and concussion injuries after car accidents are often seen together by doctors and insuyrance claim adfjusters alike.

Headrests are designed to help protect occupants and prevent neck and head injuries in a rear end car crash. They can help control the back-and-forth movement of the neck when the car is forcefully hit from behind, as in rear-end collisions. Most times, people with properly adjusted head restraints are more likely to escape whiplash injuries than people without them.

The proper adjustment of head restraints can make all the difference when preventing whiplash injury. Head restraints should be adjustable to fit around occupants’ heads comfortably and securely. The top of the head restraint should rest at least as high as the occupants’ ears, and it should not be farther away than two to four inches from their heads.

How To Position Your Headrest For Maximum Protection

Now that you know headrests are invaluable in preventing whiplash injuries of various severity levels during a car accident, how can you adjust your headrest for maximum protection?

With these simple steps, you can keep yourself and your passengers safe and potentially save yourself from severe neck injuries and costly medical bills.

The first step in properly using your headrests is to adjust them for the correct height. Ideally, the top of the headrest should align with the top of your head when seated or be in line with the top of your ears. If it is any lower, you are at greater risk of severe whiplash because your head may go over the headrest when there is a forceful collision.

Secondly, bring the headrest as close as possible to your head to minimize the distance your head will travel before it makes contact with it in the event of a collision.

You should check the angle of the headrest. It should be slightly backward to align with the natural curve of your neck rather than pointing forward toward you. This will provide optimal protection for your head and neck in the event of a collision.

Also, ensure your seat is as upright as possible to minimize the distance between your head and the headrest.

Finally, ensure that the driver and passenger headrests are adjusted if two people are in the car. This will help protect everybody in the vehicle and reduce the risk of severe injury in a crash.

By taking these simple steps to adjust your headrests properly, you can help protect yourself and your passengers from potentially severe neck or back injuries in a car accident.

Tips To Prevent Whiplash Injury

  1. Wear your seat belt and sit up straight- wearing a seatbelt is also crucial to preventing whiplash, as it helps keep you in your seat and keeps your head from being flung forward.
  2. Properly adjust your headrest for maximum protection.
  3. Leave a safe distance between you and the driver in front of you- do not drive too close to cars in front of you, so you have plenty of room to safely hit the brakes if the vehicle stops abruptly.
  4. Another way to prevent whiplash injuries is to ensure that the car you’re driving has undergone crash testing for whiplash prevention and has been approved by a reputable crash test facility. This crash testing helps identify any design elements in the car that could cause injury in a crash, so it’s essential to ensure your vehicle has passed these tests before getting on the road.


While you may take the necessary precautions to prevent injuries during a car accident, they may still occur. It is good practice to allow yourself to be examined by a medical doctor after a car accident even if you think you have not been injured, because some injuries like whiplash may have delayed onset or manifestation. 

When you do not seek medical attention soon after the accident, it becomes more difficult to prove that your injuries were caused by the car accident, which might result in a significant loss in car accident settlements.

Remember that a poorly adjusted headrest is almost as bad as no headrest; always adjust the head restraint to the optimum position before driving.

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