Monday, June 30, 2008

City Cars Leave Drivers More at Risk of Whiplash Injuries

The Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre, better known as Thatcham, released figures recently indicating that in the event of low speed rear end collisions it is popular ‘City Cars’ which are the least effective in saving the occupant from debilitating whiplash injury.

Whiplash and whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) represent a range of injuries to the neck caused by or related to a sudden distortion of the neck - the consequences of whiplash can range from mild pain for a few days to severe disability caused by restricted head or cervical spine movement, sometimes with persistent pain.

Symptom analysis shows that neck pains occur in between 62% to 100% of whiplash cases. Headaches in the suboccipital region occur in 82% of cases. Paresthesia of the upper extremities occurs in 45% of cases and overt neurological symptoms occur in between 12% and 20% of cases. Symptoms can appear directly after the injury, but often are not felt until days afterwards. Of 600,000 claims for bodily injury per annum in the UK, 80% (480,000) involve whiplash. Whiplash claims cost UK insurers some £1.6 billion per annum with insurers in the USA paying out over US $10 billion dollars per annum.

Best known by motorists for testing vehicle security systems and for work in testing seats for whiplash prevention, Thatcham also provide some 70% of the data that insurers use to define a car’s insurance grouping. Their report reveals that in an increasingly popular sector, motorists who in invest in economical, greener and easy to park ‘town’ vehicles are finding themselves more vulnerable to injury.

Consumers trying to reduce their environmental impact of their vehicles are being short changed. When it comes to safety no 'City Cars' achieved a 'good' in Thatcham's recent safety tests. What’s more, most rear end collisions tend to occur when driving slowly in urban areas, with light cars proving a higher risk. Small city cars are simply not equipped to protect their occupants’ from whiplash type injuries when they have to absorb the crash energy from larger, heavier vehicles. This lack of protection combined with poor seat design makes whiplash far more likely.

The news regarding whiplash injuries isn’t all bad though, with seat designs improving all the time and around 75% of all new seats achieving good or acceptable safety ratings. The problem seems to lie in the fact that the ‘good’ ratings at the moment only apply to higher value cars. Thatcham have given their seal of approval to three vehicle manufacturers - Audi, Volvo and SAAB - who each having achieved an 'ALL GOOD' rating across their range are to be congratulated.

It is hoped by industry safety professionals such as Thatcham that this research revealing the ineffectiveness of smaller cars to cope with low speed rear end collisions safely will inspire manufacturers to work hard at improving seat and headrest design. That good design and the associated safety benefits should only apply to higher value cars will hopefully soon be a thing of the past.

About the Author

We deal in a range of claims, including whiplash claims and compensation.

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