Many SUV And Truck Headrests Suck, Don't Protect Against Injury From Rear Collisions

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety many SUV and pickup trucks have inadequate protection against common neck injuries sustained during rear collisions. A few were so obviously inadequate that they didn’t even need to be tested, like the “Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Classic” and the “Dodge Ram 1500.”

Why should you care? Because you’re more likely to need the protection of a headrest than you are an airbag. Rear collisions are common. The above painfully boring, yet awesome, video from the folks at the IIHS shows a failed test of a 2007 Dodge Nitro seat. (Hey, we like crash test dummies, ok?) You can see that the head is not supported from behind, which would cause the dummy to sustain neck injuries and have to wear one of those embarrassing neck brace things to school the next day.

Also worth noting is that even “good” headrests won’t work if they’re not adjusted correctly. According to the IIHS, the headrest should be positioned up around the passengers ears. Tall passengers are especially vulnerable to these sorts of whiplash injuries, because their heads are often above the support if it is not designed well (Ahem, Dodge Ram) or adjusted incorrectly.

Rear Crash Protection in SUVs, Trucks, Minivans (PDF) [IIHS]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Motor_Head says:

    Ok, go in 56 seconds and look at the Toyota seat they say is good. The end of the seat body is a good 2-3 inches below is shoulder line, and he has the headrest up 4-6 inches for the top of the headrest to meet the middle of his head.

    That doesn’t seem like good design to me, and I have never seen any driver actually do that.

    But, it is Toyota, so it has to be good!

    /end sarcasm

  2. CaptainConsumer says:

    Here here, not only do Toyota vehicles keep you safer than any other cars on the road, they actually now clean the air and pick up litter on the sides of the road as they go along, leaving nothing but fresh air and butterflies in it’s beautifully sculpted wake

  3. ShadeWalker says:

    was it made in china?

  4. Skiffer says:

    How does this compare to the injuries received when a truck or SUV, with its bumper practically at head-level, rear ends a compact?

    Oohhhh, boohoo – our SUVs give us sore necks…

  5. Thrust says:

    But SUV Drivers are invincible, aren’t they?

  6. B says:

    @Motor_Head: If you watch how the dummy moves in the crashes, you will see why this position is ideal for protecting the occupant in the collision.
    Also, didn’t the Tundra perform poorly in other types of collisions?

  7. Scott says:

    This is why I always drive faster than everyone else. That way, I rear end them.

    Although, if I rear ended an SUV in my early 90’s econobox, I think I’d end up with a face-full of chromed bumper.

  8. B says:

    @Scott: Wouldn’t the bumper hit the back of your head? Or are you saying it would force all they through and into your face? Either way, ouch!

  9. Matt Saracen says:

    95% of Dodge Ram owners don’t wear seatbelts and enjoy a good pair of jean shorts, so I’m pretty sure they won’t be concerned with this study.


  10. Skiffer says:

    What I found even more amusing was 20/20 report years ago, about the cost of minor repairs for SUVs…

    Like how hitting a cement pole at 5 mph with the front bumper would end up denting the oil pan reservoir of high-end SUVs, which costs about $3,000-$5,000 to repair :)

  11. FLConsumer says:

    American cars have always had shitty head restraints on their seats. Take a look at a Mercedes from ~1970 to present day… Take a look at American cars from the same period. Virtually no head restraints whatsoever.

    Then again, the Euros have had antilock brakes since the 1970’s, better headlights, were some of the first to have seat belts as well.

  12. K-Bo says:


    Most people don’t realize this, but the fat part of your headrest is supposted to hit the middle of your head. This allows it to cushion more when your head goes flying back. Most people have theirs hit the middle of their neck, more comfortable for every day driving, not so great in a wreck.

  13. Spiny Norman says:

    @CaptainConsumer: Didn’t you hear? Toyotas now breed endangered species in the glovebox and treat your acne as you drive.

  14. Havok154 says:

    American cars always seem to be 5-10 years behind in auto technology. It’s quite sad actually.

  15. j-o-h-n says:

    @K-Bo: Perhaps I have an oddly shaped head, but I find in many vehicles that if I put the headrest up high enough to meet the middle of my head it ends up pushing my head forward into an extremely uncomfortable position where I am looking down at my shoes.

    The worst ever was a Chevy Cobalt I had as a rental, no matter what the position it was smashing my head forward and down — thank goodness I only had to drive about an hour in it as it was horribly uncomfortable — my neck hurt for days afterward!

  16. K-Bo says:

    I also find this uncomfortable, like I said,having it match the curve of your neck instead of having it pushing your head forward is more comfortable, but in terms of safety, everything I’ve read has said that’s the worst position. I think they should be tested in the most comfortable position so that we know which cars are safe the way we all drive. That or the proper positioning should be more clearly stated, I had been driving for years before I knew that having it in the curve of your neck wasn’t proper.

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    But luckily, since most SUV drivers’ heads are filled with sawdust and crumpled Big Gulp containers, head injuries aren’t as catastrophic as with other drivers.

  18. FLConsumer says:

    @K-Bo: I’d love to put my headrest higher on most of the (American) rental cars I drive, but they don’t go high enough!

    @K-Bo: Having them in the proper position isn’t uncomfortable if the headrest is shaped properly. They SHOULD be sculpted to cradle the head, in a concave shape, rather than be pillow-shaped like so many of them are.

  19. MrEvil says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever been in a vehicle whose head and neck restraints could be put in proper posistion for me. I’m a very tall person and it seems that these headrests are made for the 5′ tall crowd. I either have to slouch really bad in the seat (causing lower back problems) or I have to just live with the risk of whiplash.