The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is an organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries, and property damage — from crashes on the nation’s highways and is wholly supported by auto insurers (read insurance companies).
In a news release dated December 17, 2008, the IIHS reports (important parts underlined):
Rear crashworthiness needs improving: Many automakers haven’t paid as much attention to protection in rear crashes, compared with front and side, Nolan points out. Good seat/head restraints are key to preventing whiplash injuries. Neck sprain or strain is the most frequently reported crash injury in US insurance claims. When a vehicle is struck in the rear and driven forward, its seats accelerate occupants’ torsos forward. Unsupported, the head will lag behind the forward torso movement, and the differential motion causes the neck to bend and stretch. The higher the torso acceleration, the more sudden the motion, the higher the forces on the neck, and the more likely a neck injury is to occur. Keeping the head and torso moving together is crucial to reducing whiplash injury risk. To accomplish this, the geometry of a head restraint has to be adequate — high enough to be near the back of the head. Then the seat structure and stiffness characteristics must be designed to work in concert with the head restraint to support an occupant’s neck and head, accelerating them with the torso as the vehicle is pushed forward.
"In stop and go commuter traffic, you’re more likely to get in a rear-end collision than any other kind of crash," Nolan says. "It’s not a major engineering feat to design seats and head restraints that afford good protection in these common crashes."
In these whiplash tests and throughout the article no mention was given to the amount of property damage done to the car. Can you believe that? This was testing done by insurance companies and they didn’t mention a single word about the amount of property damage done to the rear of the vehicle as an indicator of personal injury. This article mentioned "acceleration", "sudden motion", and "higher forces to the neck." Well surely these vehicle tested impact at a high speed?
Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points for the ratings are measurements of head restraint geometry — the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man. Seat/ head restraints with good or acceptable geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph. Seats without good or acceptable geometry are rated poor overall because they can’t be positioned to protect many people.
If you are currently dealing with an insurance adjuster or company on a wreck claim, print this article out from IIHS’ website and send it to them. Make sure you highlight the portions above if you have been in a rear end collision. It may not matter because they only do what their computer tells them but it will make you feel better.