September 19, 2005
Neck and head injuries from car accidents account for 2 million insurance claims each year. Now a new study is showing just how safe head restraints are in minivans.
Rear impact crashes have been known to cause whiplash. Now the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says it is preventable--if the minivan has the right headrest.
"Part of the evaluation is to do some measurements to find whether or not the head restraints can be adjusted to be tall enough to cover a wide range of seat occupants, or drivers, and if they fit close to the back of the head," said David Zuby, the Vice President of IIHS.
Those that met the requirements moved on to the dynamic test. A dummy was mounted to a machine that simulates a 20 mile an hour rear end collision. Researchers measured the forces on the dummies neck.
Six minivans: Chevrolet Astro, GMC Safari, Mazda MPV, Nissan Quest, Grand Caravan (some seats), and Toyota Sienna (some seats) failed the test, automatically getting a poor rating.
Only two minivans, the Dodge Grand Caravan (some seats), Chrysler Town and Country (some seats) received an acceptable rating.
The Ford Freestar is the only minivan that got a good rating. Experts said it's because the head restraint is tall enough for most drivers and can support the head and neck during a rear car crash.
"Some manufacturers have adopted active head restraints that as the crash occurs and you sink into the seat the head restraint actually moves up and forward to catch your head earlier in the crash," said Zuby.
Experts said it’s a simple and inexpensive solution. All car makers can design proper seats and head restraints.
However, automakers insist their minivans are safe and they meet or exceed government standards.