A Retrofit Automobile Head Restraint for Whiplash Injury Prevention

Introduction Head restraints were introduced in US vehicles in 1969 with the aim of reducing the frequency and severity of neck injury in rear-end motor vehicle collisions. However, whiplash injuries of the cervical spine still continue to be the single most expensive medical claim to insurers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found that most cars sold in the U.S. do a poor job of protecting against neck injuries in rear-end collisions because the head restraints cannot be correctly positioned to sufficiently align the head with the cervical spine. Therefore in many cases this safety device may not be effective in controlling head and neck motion during rear-end impact simply because it cannot be positioned appropriately. Researchers at the UW have designed and begun testing a retrofit device that enables the correct positioning of head restraints in both the vertical and horizontal directions. Technology description The device allows the original head restraint that came with the vehicle to be correctly positioned, both vertically, and horizontally. It can be quickly and easily retrofit to any vehicle seat having a standard two post head restraint, common in most vehicles. It provides energy absorption, as the head hits the head restraint during impact, limiting forward rebound. Business opportunity Auto-related neck injuries in the U.S. result in $7 billion annually in insurance claims. Although an increasing number of new automobiles have adequately adjustable head restraints, a majority of the vehicles currently on the road do not. This device, which can be inexpensively manufactured and easily retrofit in most cars, would enable the correct positioning of head restraints to provide greater safety. Stage of development Initial data and working prototypes exist for this technology. Intellectual property position The UW is currently reviewing this technology for patent protection. For more information on this technology contact:
Angela Loihl, Ph.D., MBA Licensing Officer, Invention Licensing aloihl@u.washington.edu 206-543-3970

Type of Offer: Licensing

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