injuries are estimated to cost European society some
8 billion a year. Yet, it should be possible, through adequate seat and
headrest design, to reduce the incidence, severity, and cost of such injuries.
It is important therefore to understand the biomechanical mechanisms of
neck injuries and to determine contributing factors. Vehicle safety standards
exist for frontal and lateral collisions, but not for rear-end collisions.
These are the reasons behind two parallel BRITE/EURAM
3 projects: WHIPLASH and Whiplash Prevention System.
third of all injury insurance claims are related to neck injuries, and
half of these are due to rear-end automobile collisions where the head
snaps violently backward and forward in a motion called 'whiplash'. This
can cause pain in the neck and shoulders, difficulty supporting the head,
numbness and tingling in the hands, blurred vision, altered balance, fainting
and more. The effects can be long lasting, and some whiplash victims never
twice as high for women as for men
research teams examined the mechanisms of neck injuries and the
factors that influence them in the WHIPLASH
project, co-ordinated by the TNO
Crash Safety Research Centre in the Netherlands. From a literature
search and crash tests, it appeared that headrests are usually not
properly adjusted and cannot be fitted properly for larger persons.
It also emerged that the risk of neck injury is twice as high for
women as for men.
situations must clearly be avoided:
Firstly, it must not be possible for the neck to extend
backwards over the headrest. This means the latter must be high
Secondly, there must be little or no horizontal gap between
the head and headrest, because a large gap favours head accelerations
and neck strain, and causes the head to hit the headrest with
Thirdly, the elasticity of the headrest must be controlled
as it contributes to propelling the head forward.
there is the issue of the stiffness of the seat. In recent car models,
the seats are made stiff to prevent breaking on impact. This, however,
does not favour a good adjustment of the head and neck to the headrest
and seat. For lightweight occupants - and particularly women - it
would seem that seat-back stiffness should be slightly reduced to
give better protection against whiplash.
crash test dummy developed
addition to a wealth of knowledge on neck injury mechanisms and
the loads to be prevented in the event of a crash, WHIPLASH has
yielded numerical models to simulate crash effects on women. A new
crash-test dummy allows precise measurement of head accelerations,
neck loads and movements of the head with respect to the torso.
The dummy has been sold to several car manufacturers and research
project partners have also developed new crash-test procedures for
assessing the risk of neck injury. The International
Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the United Nation's
for Europe (ECE), are currently considering these procedures
for inclusion in standard vehicle safety tests.
design offers increased protection
is now up to the automobile industry to incorporate the findings
of the WHIPLASH project into car design. Here, public awareness
and consumer pressure are important. Once cars affording better
whiplash protection are on the market, it will take more time before
they become a substantial part of the car fleet. For this reason,
it was decided to launch a second project, Whiplash
Prevention System, co-ordinated by the Technical
University Graz in Austria.
The aim was to produce an improved, cost-effective head restraint
to be fitted into most current cars. The consortium for this project
included: a university research department; the company in charge
of patenting and marketing the new product; a manufacturer of car
hoods and covers; two manufacturers of special car seats; a maker
of car seat springs and parts; and an industrial design company.
project has yielded a headrest affording increased protection against
whiplash. Its design has been optimised though extensive testing.
It is larger than current models and adapts well to the head and
neck, so as to minimise the horizontal gap. It contains a newly
developed energy-absorbing material instead of foam, which is too
elastic. And it can fit onto many current seat models. A second
energy-absorbing material has been developed for seat backs.
crash tests, the new headrest was validated for over 40 different
seats and proved to reduce the risk of neck injury. Details of the
project and validation tests are available on four CDs, obtainable
The new product has now reached the market and the first 1,000-unit
series is already sold out.
patents in a competitive field
prevention is a very active field. Worldwide, at least 80 different
patent applications have been submitted in this area over the last
five years. The Whiplash Prevention System project has yielded three
patents, and knowledge generated within the WHIPLASH project has
led to five applications submitted by individual project partners.
safety is one of the problems tackled within the Land
transport and marine technologies key action. Research on
this topic was also conducted under FP4, with two successful projects
devoted to the prevention of neck injuries in rear-end traffic
- Reduction of neck injuries and their social costs in rear-end
collisions (BRPR 960221)
Prevention System : (BRST 975162)