With compensation payments running to more than £1.6billion for the 200,000 whiplash injuries and 2,000 permanent disabilities every year in the UK, the insurance industry asked motor research centre Thatcham to devise ratings for vehicle head restraints.
It found more than a quarter of all vehicles failed to offer an average sized male adequate protection. During the course of its investigation, Thatcham also discovered that drivers were not helping themselves either: a staggering 72% of people travelling in vehicles do no adjust head restraints properly.
Thatcham chief executive Peter Roberts said: 'The majority of manufacturers have already incorporated geometrically correct designs that offer good protection. It is clear that certain manufacturers need to make improvements to fall within the internationally recognised standards.
'And motorists have to play their part too – many are driving around in vehicles that are fitted with perfectly good head restraints that have not been adjusted correctly.'
Thatcham recommends that head restraints be as high as the top of the head and close to the back of the head – touching if possible.
Manufacturers which performed well in the tests include Volvo and Saab, who rated good across all their models, with Renault, Vauxhall, Peugeot and Toyota following close behind. Thatcham evaluated the restraints on head and distance from the back of the head and the ability to lock in place.
In total, 12% of the 250 models tested were rated poor. They included the Audi A3, Citroen C3, Land Rover Freelander, Rover 25, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Lupo, Golf, Bora and Passat.