How Head Rest Functioning as Car Safety Feature – Head Rest is one of familiar car interior fittings. But many of us did not know that the initial name of this part is “Head Restraint” which means “Retaining Heads”. However, because it’s more familiar called as Head Rest, the term has obscured its function as a safety feature.


Wikipedia explains Head Restraint definition as follows:

Head restraint is an automotive safety features, which is attached to or integrated with the top of each seat to restrict the movement to the back of the head adult passengers, relative to the body in a collision – to prevent or reduce the injury to the cervical vertebrae.”


From this definitions, we know that what we often call as headrests have an important role to save us from injury or even death due to an accident.


Unfortunately, many of us ignore this feature, both we as users of the car, even the car manufacturers themselves who still made improver car head rest or practically does not deserve to be called as a head rest.


It is common we encounter today, some head rest on cars are just like a small mound on the chairs that is not capable of supporting the head of an adult. For example, we have encountered in the small hatchback cars in developing countries such as Indonesia and India.


Though seemingly it’s a trivial matter, the absence of strict governmental rules about safety features on the car, is used by car manufacturers to reduce production costs.


By reducing the feature, multiplied by millions of cars produced, it will certainly be a tremendous savings for car manufacturers, although it has the potential of harming their consumers.


How head restraint act as a safety feature?


In the event of a collision from the front, passenger weight will be swung hardly towards the front side of the cars, then when the car is completely stopped, within a fraction of a second passenger weight will be jerked back towards to the chair.


At that time, the passenger’s head will also swung strongly towards the back, and then the headrest keep the passenger’s head not to pass through the body’s position, relative to the collar bone and keep it straight with the spine, to avoid injuries or even broken.


If the head rest position is not available or too low, then the passengers will be jerked violently towards the rear, until the passing position of the spine, while the body is retained by the seat.


The risk of injury depends on how hard the beat. If the collision is not too hard, it could cause neck fracture injury or wound on the inside. But in a severe accident, the neck bone may be broken completely and lead to death.


So also in the case of the car was hit from behind by another vehicle, passengers sitting in a chair without a head rest, will immediately jerked backwards and suffered injury or a broken collarbone as we explained above.


Other function of Head Rest on Emergency


Some of the headrest are removable from its chair, it’s often called adjustable head rest, having two anchoring of steel. Usually the headrest of the seat can be removed by pressing the small lever on one side of the metal holder.


In an emergency situation where the door is locked and can not be opened, for example due to fire, sandwiched by other vehicles or malfunctioning.


Passengers in the car can use the securing metal headrest to break the glass, by tucking the metal is on the side of the glass in the door trim, then pulled over backwards toward the inside until the windshield cracked and broke as a whole.


So should you buy a car, you can choose one with headrest that is adjustable and not one with all its headrest fused with the chair, like some small cars. If you’ve already bought a car with all fused headrests, then you should buy a glass breaker hammer to be stored in the car.


Overview of the Head Rest History


Head Restraint on the car was first patented by Benjamin Katz, a resident of Oakland, California-USA, in 1921. In the advanced patent filed in 1930 and 1950. The main Supplier Head Rest in the UK, Karobes, also patented its product in late 1950.


At first installation of car headrests are optional. Cars with optional head rest have come into existence on cars from North America in the 1960s.


Then the U.S National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required head rest on brand new cars, starting from 1 January 1969. The regulation was called “Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 202” (Source:


Provisions on the head restraint depends on the regulations in each country, related rules for car manufacturers or standards of quality and completeness of cars that can be sold in the concerned country.

Keep Safety Driving!

Rahadian Abdhi

A car enthusiast who love to write his opinion about dynamic automotive world. The automotive technology development is something amazing to him.

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