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I gain ran into a Minneapolis Tribune fix it column the other day that had a question on headrests:

Q What is the correct placement of the car headrest in relation to the head?

KAREN YOUSO’S answer was enlightening and a good place to start:

A It’s a good question considering that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that up to 90 percent of vehicles have their head restraints positioned incorrectly. A properly positioned head restraint will minimize neck injury in a crash, especially from a rear-end collision.

The general recommendation is that the top of the head restraint be positioned so that it is at the same level as the passenger’s eyes. In other words, the bulk of the head restraint is directly in line with the passenger’s ears. And the passenger’s head should be close to the restraint, a space of no more than 4 inches.

There are actually two issues to look at:

1) The hight in relationship to the head

2) The distance between the head and the headrest

The IIHS makes the recommendations of:

A head restraint should be positioned at least as high as the head’s center of gravity, or about 3.5 inches below the top of the head.

The distance from the back of the head to the restraint should be as small as possible, preferably less than 4 inches. (On seats without horizontally adjusting head restraints, this can be achieved by adjusting the seat back recline angle.)

The Canadian Occupational Therapists has provided some graphic examples:


They also suggest that everyone walk through these questions:

The next time you get into your car take a minute before turning the key in the ignition. Draw a line straight back from the top of their ears to the headrest.

  • Is there anything that would stop your head from moving back if the car was suddenly jolted?

  • Is there minimal space between your head and the actual restraint?

  • Have you noticed if your seat has an adjustable or fixed restraint?

It is all about checking you surrounding to insure against injury if you are hit from behind. We see to many people with these injuries that have had their lives changed.

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