The American Insurance Association (AIA) on Monday said it supports recommendations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to improve the safety and design of seat and head restraints in SUVs (sport utility vehicles).
Neck sprains and strains are the most frequently reported injuries in U.S. insurance claims and account for more than one-half of all auto crash injury claims. The cost of just those claims where neck pain was the most serious was approximately $8.5 billion in 2002, representing approximately 25 percent of the total dollars paid for all crash injuries combined. IIHS’s study reportedly shows that effective head restraints reduce the rearward motion of an occupant’s head in a rear-end crash and decrease the likelihood of sustaining a whiplash injury.
“In 2002, an estimated 66 percent of all insurance claimants under bodily injury liability coverage and 56 percent under personal injury protection (PIP) coverage – the two most important insurance injury coverages – reported minor neck injuries,” explained David Snyder, AIA vice president and assistant general counsel. “For 42 and 33 percent of bodily injury liability and personal injury protection claimants, respectively, neck sprains or strains were the most serious injuries reported.”
Whiplash and whiplash-associated disorders describe a range of neck injuries related to sudden distortions of the neck that commonly occur in rear-end crashes. The most common symptom reported by whiplash victims is pain due to mild muscle strain or minor tearing of soft tissue.
Other injuries include nerve damage, disc damage, and in the most severe cases ruptures of ligaments in the neck and fractures of the cervical vertebrae. Whiplash injuries can be sustained in any type of crash but occur most often in rear-end collisions.
“Injury coverages make up about one-half of the typical auto insurance premium and the average injury cost is approximately $10,000,” continued Snyder. “Most injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes are not life-threatening as evidenced by 43,000 fatalities versus 3 million injuries sustained in 2004.”
“IIHS’s study clearly shows that head restraints are an essential safety feature and that many of these soft tissue injuries are easily and inexpensively preventable,” stated Snyder. “Just as airbags and seatbelts have helped to prevent life-threatening injuries and fatalities, good headrests can prevent these other soft tissue injuries.”
“AIA urges all auto manufacturers to get on with the important work of improving the design of seat and head restraints in SUVs, and all other motor vehicles, to help prevent whiplash injuries that unnecessarily cause pain and lead to higher than necessary auto insurance costs,” added Snyder.
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