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Relationship of dynamic seat ratings to real-world neck injury rates

Farmer, Charles M.; Zuby, David S.; Wells, JoAnn K.; Hellinga, Laurie A.
Traffic Injury Prevention (TIP)
December 2008

Objectives: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety assigns consumer safety ratings to passenger vehicle seats based on laboratory sled tests that simulate rear-end collisions. The purpose of this research was to determine how well these ratings correlate to driver neck injury risk in real-world crashes.
Methods: Insurance claims for cars and SUVs struck in the rear by the front of another passenger vehicle were examined for evidence of driver neck injury. Logistic regression was used to compare neck injury rates for vehicles with different seat ratings while controlling for other important variables.
Results: Driver neck injury rates were 15% lower for vehicles with seats rated good compared with vehicles with seats rated poor. Rates of driver neck injuries lasting 3 months or more were 35% lower for vehicles with seats rated good compared with vehicles with seats rated poor.
Conclusions: Seat/head restraints that perform better in dynamic sled tests have lower risk of neck injury than seats that rate poor, especially when considering long-term injuries. However, the relationship of dynamic seat ratings to neck injury rates is not linear. Further research is needed to determine whether the criteria for rating seats can be amended so as to be more uniformly predictive of real-world neck injury.