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IIHS head restraint ratings and insurance injury claim rates

Trempel, Rebecca E.; Zuby, David S.; Edwards, Marcy A.
Traffic Injury Prevention (TIP)

Objectives: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates front seat/head restraint designs using a combination of static and dynamic measurements following RCAR-IIWPG procedures. The purpose of this study was to determine whether vehicles with better IIHS-rated seats/head restraints had lower injury risk in rear-end collisions and how the effect of better rated seats interacted with driver gender and age.
Methods: The presence of an associated insurance injury claim was determined for rear-impact crashes using 2001–2014 model year cars and SUVs. Logistic regression was used to compare injury risk for vehicles with good, acceptable, and marginal IIHS-rated seats/head restraints with poor-rated seats/head restraints. Analyses were run by gender and driver age and also by the rate of more severe injury claims.
Results: Injury rates were 11.2% lower for vehicles with seats/head restraints rated good compared to vehicles with seats/head restraints rated poor. The percentage reduction for good- versus poor-rated seats was greater for females (12.7%) than males (8.9%). Comparing good- with poor-rated seats, driver ages 15–24 had the largest reduction at 19.8%, followed by 10.7% for driver ages 45–64 and 10.4% for driver ages 25–44.
Conclusions: Seats/head restraints with better IIHS ratings are associated with lower injury rates in rear-impact collisions than seats rated poor. The reductions in injury rates were strongest for females and for young-to–middle-age drivers. The strong reductions in injury rates for these groups are encouraging given their high initial injury rates.