• Apr 6, 2007
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in Arlington, Va. has just concluded testing on some 75 vehicles' head restraint systems and after performing a simulated rear-end impact of 20 MPH, only 22 of the systems received the top score of "good."

At the head of the class was Audi's A4, S4 and A6, along with the Chevy Cobalt, Ford Five Hundred (Taurus, whatever) and its Mercury counterpart, Honda's Civic, Hyundai Sonata, Jag S-Type, Kia Optima, Merc E-class, Nissan Sentra and its lesser sibling the Versa, Subaru's Impreza, Legacy and Outback, as well as Volvo's S40, S60 and S80 (no surprise).

The flunkees included the Acura TSX, BMW 5-series, Buick LaCrosse and Lucerne, Caddy CTS, DTS and STS, Chevy's Aveo, the Honda Fit and Accord, Infiniti's M35, the Jaguar X-Type, Kia Rio, Mitsubishi Galant, Pontiac's Grand Prix, plus the Toyota Avalon and Corrolla.

Considering that the IIHS estimates that the injuries sustained to the back and neck in these types of collisions costs insurance companies around $8 mbillion dollars per year, their interest in the matter is obvious. Whether or not consumers will include this in their purchasing criteria is another matter however.

[Source: IIHS]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 12 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      To be quite honest, I'm scared of getting hit in the rear. I'm 6'7" and am much taller than my seats. I'm considering going aftermarket just for safety reasons...
      • 7 Years Ago
      Regguy, Volvo's whiplash protection system (WHIPS) predates 3rd-party testing. The design was introduced in 1998, and so can't be the result of tuning for IIHS tests started in 2004.

      The Volvo system is actually the result of pioneering work in the biomechanics of whiplash and whiplash protection engineering. Volvo's leading whiplash scientist, Dr. Lotta Jakobsson, received an NHTSA award in 2005 for this work.

      http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-01/Esv/esv16/98S7O08.PDF

      Note that the above 1998 paper references accident research and earlier published studies done by Volvo that lead to WHIPS.

      I agree though that some manufacturers are probably designing to the test.

      Whiplash protection has been measured in real-world accidents in studies done by Volvo, the IIHS, the Swedish Road Authority, and Folksam, a Swedish insurer:

      http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-01/esv/esv19/05-0363-O.pdf
      • 7 Years Ago
      Shawn, whiplash injuries are overwhelmingly subject to the reported pain of the injured but not visible on xrays etc. As such, whiplash can be real or claimed. Insurers pay the billions for the treatments and settlements, etc. whether real or not. There has been no proof that insurance costs for whiplash in the "good" rated vehicles is lower than those of the "poor" rated vehicles. If insurers have data they have not released it.
      This could be because the IIHS test ignores the mass effect in rear impacts, ignores the crumple zone design of the vehicle, ignores the actual adjustment of the HR (as mentioned) etc.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Where was Saab?? They've had the SARS (Saab Active Head Restraint System) since 1998 (or '99?). If rear-ended, the driver & passenger are forced into the back of the seat, pushing a mechanism which moves the head rest forward to prevent the head from going as far back, and thus no whiplash.
      • 7 Years Ago
      #4: I'm pretty sure all *real* (i.e. non TrailBlazer) Saabs come standard with this feature, so this remains all the more mystifying...
      • 7 Years Ago
      #2

      I agree, Mercedes and Lexus have a similar system (active safety or something, I forget the marketing lingo). My guess is that just didn't test them in this round.
      • 7 Years Ago
      regguy, what "real world experience" are you referring to? Are there actually real world statistics available?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I look at it this way. If some vehicles can do well even if the test seems unfair, then I don't see why the others can't do well either.

      Related to this, look at the recent testing Consumer Reports did with infant car seats. Two of the models actually did pretty well even though they were tested at a speed twice as high as what CR intended. Those models would be on my shopping list if I had a baby and needed to get a car seat!
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm not surprise at volvos' three sedans actually taking top scores in this study. Volvo seats are designed and contoured to the shape of your head. Volvo makes safety features and then build a car around them/
      • 7 Years Ago
      This is nothing new. And this has nothing to do with how you adjust the head rests. The cars that did well have Active Front Head Restraints. The cars that did poorly didn't. When the poor models are redesigned (Fit, Accord, for example) they will have the new type of restraints, just like the good-scoring Civic does now. It's not rocket science.
      • 7 Years Ago
      - most of these results are old tests
      - the IIHS protocol doesn't permit adjustment as recommended in Owner Manuals or as a driver/f.pass. would do...they use a generic "mid" height and don't allow tilting forward. This means the "good" results can be the result of special tuning for the IIHS test. (Look at a Volvo HR and you'll see the tuning curves.) This tuning may be legitimately effective for those who are clueless about adjusting HR, thus the IIHS procedure.
      - so far the real world experience has not borne out the results of the "good" rated vehicles.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Maybe you guys should go to the link and download the PDF that has the details of the tests. Saab 9-3 got the highest rating, over all Good. 9-5 got over all acceptable.

      All Lexus tested where either the 2007 models or carried over 2006-2007 models. With the exception of Lexus IS 250/350 (which was rated acceptable), all Lexus tested were rated Marginal.

      MB C class - Acceptable
      MB E class - Good