You Might Be Using Your Headrest Wrong, and It Could Cost Your Life

Car safety is certainly no joke. Despite all of the modern safety features in vehicles making crashes far less dangerous, there are still countless opportunities for injury while behind the wheel. Some of which you may not even be aware of. Whether it be unknowingly driving on unevenly worn tires or improperly charging an electric vehicle, there are plenty of ways you could unknowingly be putting yourself at risk. One of those things could be improperly using your headrest.

Improperly placed headrests can cause severe injury or death in a car accident

A leather car seat headrest with a built in TV screen
Headrest with TV screen | Stewart F. House/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

According to CarTalk, having your headrest in an improper position can be extremely harmful. A reader wrote in stating that a friend of theirs suffered a neck injury in a car crash due to an improperly placed headrest. 

It may seem like an item that doesn’t carry much importance, but your car seat headrest can actually save your life in certain scenarios. Primarily, it comes into play when you’re in a rear-end accident. If your headrest is too low and your vehicle is hit from behind, it can act as a fulcrum point for your neck to bend on as your head moves backward. In extreme cases, this could result in breaking your neck. So, ensuring your headrest is at a proper height to prevent your head from flying backward in an accident is imperative. 

However, your head’s distance from the headrest itself is equally as important. Ideally, your head would be against the headrest at all times while driving. However, it’s easy to see how that might be uncomfortable. That being said, your headrest should ideally be about two inches from the back of your head at any given point. Think of it this way; the further your head is away from the headrest, the harder your head will hit it in the event of a crash

If you’ve ever been on a launch rollercoaster, you’ll note that they always tell you to put your head back. It’s for the same reason! The sudden jolt backward is going to hurt when your head finally impacts the headrest. So, it’s best practice to make sure you don’t have a long way for your head to travel upon impact.

The majority of drivers do not have their headrests in a safe position

NHTSA car safety women
A male crash test dummy | Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images

According to the CAA, about 86 percent of drivers on Canadian roads do not have their headrests appropriately adjusted. It’s reasonably safe to assume that U.S. drivers are not far off a similar mark to our friends in the great white north. 

CAA also reports that women have the win on this one, as about 23% of female drivers have their headrest in a safe position. Though that number is small enough that it’s questionable to celebrate, it’s miles ahead of male drivers. According to CAA’s data, only seven percent of male drivers have a properly adjusted headrest.

Whether it saves your life, protects you from whiplash, or just prevents a literal pain in the neck for a few weeks, your headrest is extremely important. So, don’t leave it unadjusted. Get that thing in a proper position, and enjoy your drive!

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