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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Vehicle Rear-Crash Safety Rankings Recently Released

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Tested 75 Vehicles for Neck Injuries and Whiplash

The insurance industry recently reported that new crash test results indicate that head restraints in several passenger vehicles provided marginal or poor protection against neck injuries and whiplash.

Out of 75 vehicles tested in a simulated rear crash at 20 miles per hour, only 22 received the top score of good from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Several 2007 vehicles got the lowest score of poor in the tests. The vehicles include: Acura TSX, some versions of the BMW 5 Series, Buick Lacrosse and Lucerne; Cadillac CTS, STS and DTS; Chevrolet Aveo, Pontiac Grand Prix, Honda Accord and Fit; Hyundai Accent, Infiniti M35, Jaguar X-Type, Kia Rio, Galant, Toyota Avalon and Corolla, and the Suzuki Forenza and Reno.

It is estimated by the institute that neck injuries account for 2 million insurance claims, costing at least $8.5 billion annually.

According to the Institute's test results, the top vehicles for head protection were the Audi A4, A6 and S4; Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego; Hyundai Sonata, Jaguar S-Type, Kia Optima, Mercedes E-Class, Nissan Sentra and Versa; Saab 9-3, Subaru Impreza, Outback and Legacy; Volvo S40, S60, S80; the Honda Civic 2-door and 4-door versions and some versions of the Volkswagen New Beetle.

"People think of head restraints as head rests, but they're not. They're important safety features," said the institute's president, Adrian Lund. "You're more likely to need the protection of a good head restraint than the other safety devices in your vehicle because rear-end crashes are so common."

Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong said the institute's test procedures do not take into consideration other aspects of an auto's response to a crash under normal driving conditions, such as the vehicle's structure, rear crumple zones and bumpers.

"We feel our in-house procedures are good predictors of how it will perform in the real world," said Kwong.

According to General Motors, they design head restraints "to meet a variety of driver sizes rather than focusing on a single set of metrics. Head restraints are part of the integrated approach to occupant protection in all GM vehicles."

A crash simulation sled was used to test the automobiles, imitating the forces in a stationary vehicle that is struck in the rear by a similar vehicle at 20 mph.

Vehicles earned a higher rating if the head restraint rapidly contacted the dummy's head and the forces on the dummy's neck and the acceleration of the torso were low.

According to the institute, a head restraint should stretch at least as high as the top of the ears of the tallest motorist and sit close to the back of the head so the restraint can provide early support the head in a rear-end crash.

Models that received poor overall marks and poor or marginal scores for the restraint design were due to the fact that they could not be positioned to protect many motorists.

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