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Reactive car seat could reduce whiplash injuries

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Engineers at Loughborough University have developed a new head restraint and car seat system designed to reduce whiplash injuries in rear-end vehicle collisions.

Sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways in a road traffic accident can overstretch and damage the tendons and ligaments in the neck, causing whiplash injuries.

During a rear-end collision with the new car seat, the head restraint adjusts itself to an elevated position and closer to the occupant´s head, while the car seat rotates rearwards in a controlled manner to limit the differential motion between the head and the torso.

According to Loughborough University, the integration of these two systems has the potential to limit the relative motion between the head and torso, and the range of backward rotation of the head, thereby reducing the whiplash effect on the cervical spine.

Memis Acar, Professor of Mechanics in the Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering, said: “Although whiplash is officially classed as a minor injury, symptoms can last a long time, impacting not only on the nation´s health but also the economy. This is why it is important to limit the risk of whiplash injury.

“A combined reactive seat and head restraint system is designed to reduce the whiplash risk, in conjunction with a seat damper absorbing impact energy from the collision. It does this by reducing the relative motion between the head and the torso and bringing the head restraint closer to the head before whiplash can take effect. But it is the integration of these features which makes this concept so unique and effective.

“There is currently no other product in the automotive market that integrates these concepts. What we are proposing is an affordable design which lends itself well to mass production for all car ranges. The use of mechanical linkages, which is not uncommon in some car seats, means that the whole system would be economical and easy to manufacture.”

To learn more, see the university´s short video on the development at https://youtu.be/ijxx5T3VOog.

The study, ‘Design concepts for an integrated whiplash mitigating head restraint and seat´, has been published in the International Journal of Crashworthiness.