Auto and Road User Journal
Auto and Road User Journal
February 2, 1998
TranSafety, Inc.
(U.S. and Canada)
(360) 683-6276
Fax: (360) 335-6402

Press Release: Volvo Attacks a Painful, Expensive Problem: Whiplash

(March 1997 from Volvo Cars of North America, Inc. Rockleigh, New Jersey 07647. Contact: Jeannine Fallon or Fred Hammond, 800-970-0888.)

ROCKLEIGH, NJ: Volvo is taking up yet another major challenge in the field of safety: whiplash injuries.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), "Whiplash injuries are among the most frequent in crashes and, because of this frequency . . . and occasional long-term consequence . . . their total cost is among the highest."

Whiplash occurs when the head is thrown backwards, usually in conjunction with rear- end impact. Symptoms include neck pain, stiffness, tenderness, numbness and decreased range of motion. The most serious cases involve neurological dysfunctions such as weakness and sensory deficits.

Through a research project entitled Whiplash Protection Study (WHIPS), Volvo is designing a new seat in an attempt to substantially reduce injuries in low-speed rear- end collisions.

If a car equipped with WHIPS is hit from behind, the occupant is thrown back against the backrest and head restraint. At that moment, the advanced whiplash protection system activates.

The backrest and head restraint come backward in a movement parallel to the occupant's. This allows the occupant's entire body and head to be caught in a balanced, gentle manner while much of the inertia is absorbed. WHIPS helps insure that the head remains close to the head restraint, which is crucial because the smaller that distance, the smaller the risk of whiplash injury.

Then, the backrest tips backward, helping to reduce the forward rebound that the body is subjected to after being thrown back in the seat which normally is a major contributor to whiplash.

During WHIPS activation, the seat moves backward a total distance of approximately 1.5 inches (40mm).

Also as part of this project, the structure of the seat backrest has been improved in order to help distribute the forces more evenly along the back and neck, which maximizes the protection of the spine.

Since 1987, Volvo has been working with medical experts to conduct in-depth studies of neck injuries. These studies have provided the platform for the design of Volvo's car seats. Several international surveys show Volvo cars the Volvo 850, for example offer world-class safety during rear-end collisions. However, Volvo feels there is more the automotive industry can do to reduce the human suffering caused by whiplash injuries. The WHIPS research project has therefore been given top priority in Volvo's safety research.

As always, Volvo safety engineers will do extensive testing of WHIPS in order to fully understand its effect before including it [on] models available to consumers.

In the WHIPS project, Volvo is working with automotive safety company Autoliv.

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