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Which cars do the best job at reducing whiplash risks when struck from behind, out of all the vehicles on the road? According to the non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, certain models of Volvo, Saab and Jaguar S-Type, Subaru Impreza and Volkswagen New Beetle fall within this category.

The IIHS recently reviewed a variety of late-model cars made by different manufacturers. It paid particular attention to the seat/head restraint combination, which can help protect against whiplash injuries from rear end collisions.

First, experts evaluated 97 head/seat restraint combinations in 88 cars sold in the U.S.

By aligning the head and trunk in a strategic seat/head restraint configuration, whiplash can be prevented. This reduces the chance of the head moving forward and backwards in an accident with a rear-impact vehicle.

Next, 63 cars that had 73 good/adequate seat/head geometry ratings were smashed from behind. Crash-test dummies were used to demonstrate whiplash danger. The test involved a car that was parked being rear-ended from behind by another vehicle with the same weight, traveling 20 miles per hour.

Eight of the 73 head/seat restraints received an overall “good” rating in crash testing. 16 earned an acceptable score and 19 were given marginal ratings. The cars that received a “good” rating were listed alphabetically:

Jaguar S-Type: 2005 models, all seats
Saab 9-2X 2005 models, active head restraints on all seats manufactured after September 2004
Saab 9-3: 2005 models. All seats, active headrests.
Subaru Impreza 2005 models, seats made after September 2004 active head restraints
Volkswagen New Beetle 2004-05 Models, Seats with Adjustable Lumbar and Active Head Restraints
Volvo S40: All models 2004-05, all seats manufactured after February 2004
Volvo S60: All models 2003-05, all seats
Volvo S80: All models 2003-05, all seats

However, 30 head/seat restraint combinations were rated “poor” in the crash tests. 24 seat/head restraint combos failed the geometry test. This disqualifies them from the crash test and gives them an “poor” rating.

Adrian Lund, chief operating officer of IIHS, stated that good geometry is the first step to adequate protection. He also noted that seats with poor geometry can not protect taller people.

According to the IIHS, neck injuries are estimated to cost at least $7Billion per year in insurance claims.

Whiplash symptoms may be delayed

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 20% of rear-end collision victims later experience neck pain which can lead to whiplash.

Neck pain can be felt immediately or it may take several days to develop. Other symptoms include neck stiffness, headache and dizziness. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, memory loss and difficulty concentrating are rare.

Whiplash treatment may include medication and a neck collar. This collar is usually worn for two to three week. Whiplash pain usually resolves in a matter of days or weeks. Most people recover within three months. However, some people still experience neck pain and headaches.