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Auto Headrests Better Than Ever

Automakers have made major strides over the last eight years in improving headrests to help people avoid whiplash in car accidents, an insurance group says in a report out Wednesday.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the highest rating of "good" to 45 percent of the headrests it examined in 228 vehicles from model year 2003. Only 3 percent earned the highest rating in 1995.

Ten percent of 2003 vehicles earned the lowest rating. The institute, paid for by insurers, gives headrests one of four ratings depending on their design.

To give the most protection, headrests should be positioned at or above the ears of drivers and passengers and as close to the back of the head as possible. The institute warned that even if a headrest is designed well, drivers might not adjust it high enough.

Adrian Lund, chief operating officer for the institute, said automakers improved headrests despite little direction from the federal government. Lund said Europe has much stricter design requirements for headrests.

In a 2000 report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that the $160.5 million cost of its proposed upgrades to headrests was too high to require the changes. The agency also noted that drivers can lose visibility if headrests are too high.

By Dee-Ann Durbin
By Dee-Ann Durbin

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