Too many drivers unaware of basic safety measures that could help prevent serious injury

News from Brake
28 January 2016

Almost two thirds of drivers (63%) don’t know the correct position a head restraint should be in to help prevent serious injury in the event of a crash

A similar amount (64%) don’t always check their head restraint before setting off on a long journey

With all the controversy about fraudulent whiplash claims in the media over the last few years, it would be easy to forget it can be a serious, damaging and lasting problem for some road crash victims. Today's report, released by Brake, the road safety charity, and Direct Line, reveals how little most drivers know about preventing whiplash injuries. Symptoms include neck pain, stiffness, and reduced neck movements, and between five and 20%[1] of cases develop into a long-term and potentially debilitating condition. This can involve chronic pain, loss of mobility in the neck or arms, and psychological problems. These injuries occur most often in low-speed, rear-end collisions[2]. While such crashes rarely result in fatalities, the consequences of whiplash injuries have a huge impact on individuals and on society, with an estimated annual cost of some 7.5 billion pounds across Europe.

Brake is working hard to change driver behaviour to prevent collisions in the first place, but for those who are involved in a crash it’s important that the head restraint is in the correct position to give as much protection from injury as possible. Head restraints should be adjusted so the top is about level with the top of the head and right up against the back of the head, so the head won’t be able to fly backwards in a crash. If a is missing, wobbly, or too low, it won’t protect the neck from potentially debilitating whiplash injuries.

With many families and couples who are different heights sharing cars and driving duties it is important to check the driver and passengers head restraint before each journey, if anyone is sitting in a different position from the last time the car was used. Crashes can happen even on the shortest journeys. A family with growing children will also need to regularly reassess the head restraint height even if the young person always sits in the same seat.

Alice Bailey, Campaigns and communications officer for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “As a whiplash victim myself I understand all too well the lasting damage this kind of injury can do. Despite hours of treatment I still suffer with neck pain more than 15 year after I was involved in a crash. Brake works tirelessly to prevent crashes in the first place urging drivers to make the roads as safe as possible by driving slowly and safely and using other forms of transport wherever possible, but if you are involved in a crash having your head restraint set correctly can help minimise the injuries of the driver and passengers. We would urge all drivers to familiarise themselves with the correct position and check their own and their passengers head restraints before each journey. It’s a simple task that takes just a matter of seconds that could help prevent years of pain.”

Rob Miles, Director of car insurance at Direct Line, said: “The headrest’s primary function may be confused as being one of comfort, when they are, in fact, an important safety feature – but only when used correctly. Whiplash can occur even in low-speed crashes, so adjusting your headrest correctly is a simple precaution worth taking”.

[1] Reigning in whiplash: better protection for Europe’s car occupants, ETSC, 2007


Notes to Editors:

In the long term the effects of whiplash can have a serious impact on health. A recent study found a deterioration in quality of life in the physical domain remained five years after the crash

About Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaigns, community education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on Twitter, Facebook, or The Brake Blog.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

About Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or online.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by UK Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. UK Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting