Car Accident Safety: Adjusting Your Seat for Whiplash Prevention

By Michael Pines, Accident & Injury Prevention Expert

Whiplash is likely to be sustained in a car accident mainly in part to the way seats are constructed and the commonality of rear-end car collisions.

Whiplash is defined as a rapid snapping of a person’s head, resulting in the hyperextension of the neck. Muscles, tendons and disks can each be affected including the nerves and ligaments that control movement. Chronic pain and a lack of mobility are just some of the

long-term effects associated with whiplash


It goes without saying that it’s important to protect your head and neck in your car seat in the event of an accident. Proper positioning can not only prevent whiplash but it can ultimately save your life – so it’s critically important to adjust your seats and head rests to provide ample protection in the event of a car accident.

The best protection comes from a good seat with head protection, but not all seats are created equal – nor are they capable of meeting the needs of every body type. But you can make adjustments to minimize your risk.

Adjusting Headrests

The good news is that many front seats are equipped with better headrests and positioning options for vehicles built after 2009 due to tightened federal regulations. But unfortunately, much of the technology that aims to prevent whiplash for passengers in the front are lacking for those in the rear according to


Start in the rear of your vehicle and adjust each head rest for each individual passenger. Remember that headrests are not made to be “one-size-fits-all.” They require adjustment. For proper fit, make sure the top of the head restraint reaches at least as high as the top of your ears for proper support in the event of impact. The headrest should also be close to the back of your head – 3 inches or less. Move to the front of your vehicle and perform the same adjustments on the front headrests.

Small children should ALWAYS ride in a booster, infant or child safety seat. In the state of California, children under the age of 8 must ride in the rear with a booster or car seat. If your child is 4’9” or above, s/he may ride without a child’s seat but must always wear his/her seatbelt at all times.

Preventing Other Car Accident Injury

The proper adjustment of head rests is just one way to help prevent car accident injury. Here are 3 other essential tips when it comes to staying safe in your vehicle, especially when it comes to whiplash in the event of an impact.

Wear Your Seatbelt

A seat belt keeps your body stable during a car accident, also preventing ejection from the vehicle. Always wear your seatbelt and remember – most accidents occur within a mile of home according to the California Department of Vehicles, so it’s essential that you wear it at all times.

Don’t Tailgate

Whiplash is caused by a rear-end car accident. Most commonly, people get into rear-end accidents from following too closely. Always give yourself ample room from the vehicle ahead. There should be at least 3 seconds of reaction time. To test your distance, locate a stationary object ahead – a light post, for instance. As the vehicle ahead passes, you should not pass the same stationary object without 3 or more seconds passing.

When Accidents Occur

If possible, try to position your head firmly against the head rest if you suspect someone is close to colliding with your vehicle. It’s also a good idea to always sit upright if possible without slouching.

About Michael Pines

Michael Pines is a personal injury attorney at the

Law Offices of Michael Pines, APC

in San Diego, California. He is an accident and injury prevention expert, on a campaign to end senseless injury one article at a time. Catch Mike on