When did you last adjust your headrest?

If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably ‘never’.

But my interest in healthier driving, in collaboration with Vavista, has set me off investigating all the possible ways in which we can improve our safety and wellbeing on the roads . Looking after your neck is one of them.

We all know that good posture can help protect our neck and back from strain. Though it doesn’t stop many of us slouching in front of the computer or slumping on the sofa. But did you know that correct posture and positioning in the car can be vital to protect you from additional injury?

That headrest behind you, as I have discovered, isn’t just something to lean on when you are waiting in another interminable traffic jam. It is actually a head restraint, designed to limit the movement of your head in an accident. It could protect you from whiplash (neck sprain) and even concussion.

But for maximum protection, it needs to be correctly adjusted. And then locked in position to ensure it doesn’t move during an accident. I bet you have never thought to check that the head restraint can be adjusted and locked when you buy a car?

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have advised on the correct position for a head restraint to reduce the potential movement of the head and neck during a collision:

  • The top of the head restraint should be as high as the top of your head.
  • The head restraint should be as close to the back of your head as possible

The dangers of a poorly adjusted head restraint

Whiplash isn’t a specific medical condition but describes symptoms like pain and stiffness after a sudden jolting injury to the neck. Often, there is no identifiable problem with the bones or joints on x-ray and other scans. It is assumed that muscle or other soft tissue sprain underlies the symptoms. A correctly adjusted head restraint will reduce the amount of movement of the head and neck when that careless driver runs into the back of your car at the lights. Therefore reducing the risk of whiplash. In addition, a recent study showed that the angle of the head at the time of impact can also affect the risk of concussion or brain injury. Two good reasons to check that head restraint after all.

What have I learned?

That comfy headrest needs to be taken more seriously. I’ll be adjusting it correctly before my next trip and remember to adjust it in any other car I may be driving. Plus, I will ensure my husband alters it to suit him when he borrows my car. And make sure I return it to the best position to suit me. When my car finally gives up the ghost and I need to get a replacement I will check the head restraint along with any other in-built safety features. In fact, some manufacturers are introducing active head restraints. Where the head restraint is triggered to move towards your head in a collision, reducing the distance the head and neck can jolt through and so adding protection. The Euro NCAP website provides safety ratings on all makes of cars to help you choose the best.

Finally, I need to remember that it is not just the driver who needs to check their head restraint. Front and rear-seat passengers should be encouraged to check them too and make it as automatic as fastening their seatbelt.

Vavista aims to care for its customers as well as their cars. This simple measure is a quick and easy way of reducing your risk of neck and head injury in the rare case of an accident! And one that is often overlooked.