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Modern cars offer various seating features, such as power adjustability, heating and ventilation, and other luxury options. Seat comfort is essential for drivers and passengers, but the headrest is one of the most commonly overlooked car safety features. Headrests in good working condition are crucial in a car accident and can make the difference between a sore neck and chronic injuries or even death. Here’s why removing a car headrest is a terrible idea.

Why car headrests are important

2023 Chevy Bolt EUV headrests
Headrests in a 2023 Chevy Bolt EUV | Chevrolet

The days of sitting in the back seat of your grandparents’ old station wagon with no safety restraints are gone. In 1969, headrests became a standard car safety feature, preventing many drivers and passengers from sustaining life-altering head and neck injuries.

Whiplash is a common injury that causes a decreased range of movement and neck stiffness and often occurs when a person gets hit from behind in a car crash, even when traveling at a low speed. When a person’s head “whips” back suddenly during a collision, it can hyperextend the neck and damage the ligaments and nerves, leading to chronic pain and discomfort.

Car headrests can absorb the impact and, when properly positioned, support the head and prevent it from snapping backward in the event of a crash. On the other hand, a poorly positioned headrest can cause more harm than good, so it’s important to ensure the headrest matches the proper height of all vehicle occupants.

Here’s why you should never remove your car’s headrests

While many automakers are going all out with advanced seating options for front-row occupants, the needs of rear-seat passengers are often overlooked. “Although the situation has improved in recent years, many cars’ rear seats have less sophisticated head restraints than the front and have no restraint at all in the center rear,” Consumer Reports notes.

The primary function of a car headrest is not for comfort but protection. Although removing a headrest is easy, doing so can lead to serious injury. Some drivers remove headrests to get a better view of the backseat or clearer outward visibility when backing up. But it’s never a good idea.

Although many believe the metal posts on removable headrests can be used to break windshield glass in an emergency, that’s not the case and is a social media myth. Headrests are removable to make them easier to clean or change the seat covers.

So, although you might be tempted to remove your car’s headrests, it’s a terrible idea.

How to use these car safety features correctly

Most drivers don’t adjust a car’s headrest to fit their body, which could prove dangerous in a rear-end collision. According to AARP, “Make sure the middle of the head restraint is even with the middle of your head or as high as it can be adjusted if it will not reach the middle of your head.”

The distance between the car headrest and the back of your head should be no more than 2.5 inches to provide proper support.

In some scenarios, a car headrest could save your life, so positioning it correctly should never be taken for granted. If a headrest is placed too low and you get hit from behind, it could act as a fulcrum point and, in extreme cases, break your neck as your head flies backward in the collision.

Although properly adjusting the headrests for all passengers could seem like a pain in the neck, it could prevent whiplash and other serious neck injuries. So take the time before you start driving to make the correct adjustments.


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