Whiplash, although officially classed as a minor injury, can lead to long painful and debilitating symptoms for many years. Not uncommon in frontal and side crashes, whiplash most often occurs in low speed, rear crashes. Whiplash costs insurers over £2 billion in claims costs in the UK each year.

Thatcham are a founder member of the International Insurance Whiplash Prevention Group (IIWPG), a collection of like-minded insurance research centres throughout the world that have worked together to formulate a dynamic test protocol for whiplash prevention.The procedure is the very first international dynamic test for whiplash evaluation and is undertaken in Europe by Thatcham and in the USA by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Thatcham’s crash facility is equipped with a Hyper G Sled, which is able to recreate the typical forces in a low speed rear impact. The seat is placed on our Hyper-G test sled and accelerated to 10 mph (16 km/h) in a tenth of a second, recreating the forces endured by an occupant in a typical low speed crash. The accelerations and forces imparted to the specially designed Biofidelic Rear Impact Dummy are recorded for detailed analysis.

Technicians are then able to measure the effectiveness of different seats and head restraints and using the data have been able to encourage manufacturers to improve designs to a point where more than 70% of tested seats are now rated as ‘good’ or ‘acceptable’.

Regardless of the effectiveness of a particular seat or head restraint motorists can help themselves by adjusting their head restraints. Head restraints should be positioned as close to the back of the head as possible (touching is best) and the top of the restraint should be as high as the top of the head.