Saturday, April 07, 2007

Key autos fail whiplash test

Thursday, April 05, 2007
Key autos fail whiplash test
Restraints didn't prevent neck injuries in rear crashes
Ken Thomas / Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Head restraints in several passenger vehicles provided marginal or poor protection against neck injuries and whiplash, the insurance industry reported Thursday in new crash test results.

Only 22 of 75 vehicles tested in a simulated rear crash at 20 miles per hour received the top score of good from the Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The best

Among the top vehicles for head protection, according to the Institute's testing, were the Audi A4, A6 and S4; Chevrolet Cobalt; Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego; Hyundai Sonata; Jaguar S-Type; Kia Optima; Mercedes E-Class; Nissan Sentra and Versa; Saab 9-3; Subaru Impreza, Outback and Legacy; Volvo S40, S60 and S80; Honda Civic 2-door and 4-door versions; and some versions of the Volkswagen New Beetle.

"People think of head restraints as head rests, but they're not. They're important safety features," said Adrian Lund, the institute's president. "You're more likely to need the protection of a good head restraint than the other safety devices in your vehicle because rear-end crashes are so common."

The institute estimates that neck injuries account for 2 million insurance claims annually costing at least $8.5 billion.

The worst

Several 2007 vehicles got the lowest score of poor in the tests. The vehicles include: Acura TSX; some versions of the BMW 5 Series; Buick Lacrosse and Lucerne; Cadillac CTS, STS and DTS; Chevrolet Aveo; Pontiac Grand Prix; Honda Accord and Fit; Hyundai Accent; Infiniti M35; Jaguar X-Type; Kia Rio; Mitsubishi Galant; Toyota Avalon and Corolla; and the Suzuki Forenza and Reno.

Bill Kwong, a Toyota spokesman, said the test does not take into account other aspects of a vehicle's response to a crash under normal driving conditions, such as the vehicle's structure, rear crumple zones and bumpers.

"We feel our in-house procedures are good predictors of how it will perform in the real world," Kwong said.

General Motors said it designs head restraints "to meet a variety of driver sizes rather than focusing on a single set of metrics. Head restraints are part of the integrated approach to occupant protection in all GM vehicles."

The cars were tested on a crash simulation sled, replicating forces in a stationary vehicle struck by a similar vehicle at 20 mph.

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