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Most SUVs, Pickups Flunk Whiplash Test

Jan 9, 2006 | www.consumeraffairs.com

Most SUVs and every pickup tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had a tough time with a new whiplash test, failing to provide adequate protection for rear-end collisions.

IIHS found that only 6 of the seat and head restraint combinations in 44 current model SUVs are rated good for protection against whiplash injuries in rear-end crashes.

None of the seat and head restraint designs in 15 pickup truck models earns a good rating. Overall 4 out of 5 SUV and pickup seat and head restraints evaluated by IIHS rated marginal or poor for whiplash protection.

This is the first time the Institute has tested SUV and pickup seats using a dummy that can measure forces on the neck during a simulated rear-end crash.

"Manufacturer advertising often emphasizes the rugged image of SUVs and pickups. However, the institute's evaluations show seats and head restraints in many models wouldn't do a good job of protecting most people in a typical rear impact in everyday commuter traffic," said Adrian Lund, the group's president.

Six vehicles earned the highest rating in the IIHS analysis, including the Ford Freestyle, Honda Pilot, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover LR3, Subaru Forester, and Volvo XC90.

The Ford Explorer, Toyota 4Runner and Chevrolet TrailBlazer all rated poor, as did the Chevy Silverado pickup and some seats in the Ford F-150 and Dodge Dakota pickups.

Neck injuries are the most-common serious injuries reported in U.S. car crashes, accounting for 2 million insurance claims totaling at least $8.5 billion annually, the insurance group said.

"The key to reducing whiplash injury risk is to keep the head and torso moving together," Lund said. "To ensure they move together, a seat and head restraint have to work in concert to support an occupant's neck and head, accelerating them with the torso as the vehicle is driven forward. To accomplish this, the geometry of the head restraint has to be adequate, and so do the stiffness characteristics of the vehicle seat."

A head restraint should extend at least as high as the center of gravity of the head of the tallest expected occupant. A restraint also should be positioned close to the back of an occupant's head so it can contact the head and support it early in a rear-end crash.


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