Claims News Service, Sept. 22, 10:47 a.m. EDT - A recent studyfrom the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety shows that seat/headrestraint combinations in the Ford Freestar and its twin MercuryMonterey earn good overall ratings. Those in some Dodge GrandCaravan/Chrysler Town & Country models are rated acceptable.However, the seat/head restraints in most current minivan modelsare marginal or poor, indicating they wouldn't provide adequateprotection from whiplash injuries for many people in rear-endcollisions.

Neck injuries are the most common kind reported in automobilecrashes and are most likely to occur in rear impacts. Whiplash isthe most serious injury reported in about 2 million insuranceclaims each year, which cost at least $8.5 billion. Such injuriesaren't life-threatening, but they can be painful anddebilitating.

The ratings are for seat/head restraint designs available in 14current minivan models. Starting points for the ratings aremeasurements of head restraint geometry -- the height of arestraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the headof an average-size man. Seats with good or acceptable restraintgeometry then are tested dynamically using a dummy that measuresforces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which astationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph. Seats withoutgood or acceptable geometry are rated poor overall because theycannot be positioned to protect many people.

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