Research Papers

Whiplash Prevention Campaign Initiative: BC Provincial Results for an Observational Study Assessing Proper Head Restraint Use

Filename 5C-Saffari_FP_Whiplash-Prevention-Campaign-Initiative.pdf
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Date added June 16, 2014
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Category 2014 CMRSC XXIV Vancouver
Tags Research and Evaluation, Session 5C
Author/Auteur Payam Saffari, Douglas P. Romilly, Marc White, Ediriweera Desapriya
Stream/Volet Research and Evaluation

Slidedeck Presentation

5C Saffari_Whiplash Prevention Campaign Initiative


Rear-end impacts are the most frequent type of automotive collisions. The most common
injuries associated with rear-end impacts are soft tissue neck injuries, often called whiplash
injuries, which bring about a significant cost to society every year. A major factor in reducing
the risk of a whiplash injury is the proper positioning of the head restraint (HR) relative to the
seated occupant’s head at the time of impact. In fact, current research shows that the risk of
serious whiplash injuries can be reduced by 35% through proper positioning of the HR.
However, according to a 2002 Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) observational study of HR
use, on average 86% of Canadian drivers had their HRs positioned “poorly” thus providing
inadequate whiplash protection. This very low rate of proper HR positioning indicates a strong
need for action to reduce the impact of whiplash injuries on society.
The lack of proper HR positioning prompted the researchers at UBC to initiate an AUTO21 NCE
sponsored initiative entitled the “Whiplash Prevention Campaign”. The main goal of this
initiative is to increase awareness of the importance and use of whiplash prevention measures
by educating the public via comprehensive social marketing strategies and vehicle safety
awareness programs. To evaluate the effectiveness of these safety awareness programs, up-todate
baseline statistics of proper HR usage were deemed necessary and a new observational
study was initiated in 2010. This paper presents the updated findings of implementing this
observational study method (methodology initially presented at CMRSC XXI) for assessing HR
use in passenger vehicles on public roadways within BC.
The observational study was initially implemented at various sites near intersections throughout
Greater Vancouver (Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, UBC Campus, etc. - results presented at
CMRSC XXII), with subsequent sites more recently being selected and sampled within the BC
Interior (Kamloops, Kelowna), on Vancouver Island (Nanaimo), and in Northern BC (Prince
George). This subsequent data collection provides a larger and more diversified dataset of
passenger vehicles and occupants for comparison in this expanded BC Provincial study. As per
the defined study protocol, collected images of vehicle occupants were obtained and computeranalyzed
using customized software to provide quantitative assessment of the HR position
relative to the occupant’s head. The relative position of the HR was then evaluated based on
the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) static position ratings (i.e. Good, Acceptable,
Marginal, or Poor).
A sample set of 2770 analyzed observations was obtained at 31 different sites across the
province which included 2572 drivers and 198 passengers. The results show that only 44% of
drivers had their HR positioned in the “Good” rated position to prevent or reduce risk of whiplash
injury (based on the IIHS static position rating). Only 61% of drivers had their HR positioned
rated as “Adequate”, i.e. “Adequate” being either in the “Good” or “Acceptable” range. Drivers in
the Greater Vancouver region were more likely to have their HRs “Adequately” positioned
compared to elsewhere in the province, however, subsequent statistical analysis indicated that
this result could be attributed to the different distribution of vehicle types in more rural versus
more urban areas.
Although there has clearly been an increase in the rate of proper HR use since the IBC study of
2002, this study finds that still more than half of the drivers in the sampled population are not
optimally protected from whiplash injuries. The findings of this study provide baseline
information valuable for assessing the impact of social marketing interventions directed towards
increasing whiplash safety awareness and changing occupant behaviour regarding the proper
positioning of vehicle HRs.

Payam Saffari, Douglas P. Romilly, Marc White, Ediriweera Desapriya