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New Head Restraints – Safety, Torture, or Both?

Head restraints are designed today for safety, but people can’t stand them and either ditch the car or lean their seat back to compensate, which defeats the safety purpose. How are the head restraints on your vehicle? Comfy or a pain in the neck?

Karen-Edmunds Community Manager



  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,684
    Seems when Honda started putting them in the Civic people were pulling them out or turning them around. They made driving very uncomfortable. All to satisfy some safety nut in the Government.
  • You definitely know that its they're there but it's not a big hindrance for my wife and I. I'm 6' tall and the wife is 5' 5". I the best advice that I can give is that the seat adjustment makes a big difference on the interaction with the head rest.
  • jlcjlc Posts: 30
    I think they are fine, However I did remove the rear seat ones, if I have rear seat passengers it's easy to put them in..

  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,305
    How are they to be removed? One salesman tried to accomodate wife's comfort zone by reversing them and could not pull them out.
  • I would blame the IIHS and the insurance industry in general not the gov't. They do work very well though and in the Volvos most people don't have a problem with them. The most common problem I see is women with big pony tales and the head rest hits their hair in just wrong way scrunching it into the back of their head.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,947
    If nothing else, you have to love the graffiti on the headrest. There's a biz opportunity there somewhere.

    "Those annoying headrests have aroused the ire of automotive journalists and the driving public alike. Ford, in particular, is finding a lot of haters."

    Why Are My Car's Headrests Driving Me Crazy?! (Edmunds Daily)

  • I own three recent Fords with three distinctly different headrests. The first is a 2002 Mustang with laughable headrests; I can lay my head back and look at the headliner. My 2007 Focus is at the opposite extreme; I can barely keep my head level, and the top of the headrest raps the back of my head with every bump; very annoying! And finally my 2005 F-150 has perfect headrests; cushioned and practically upright, there's enough room to actually rest your head comfortably (hence "head rest") but still enough rigidity to protect in a whiplash situation. Why can't ALL headrests be like this?
  • That's good to know, Greenpony!
  • Edmunds editor writing about head restraints (a.k.a. head rest) would like to email or speak with someone asap who drives a fairly late-model vehicle and who has suffered whiplash. Please send email to if you fit that description and would like to talk.

    Karen-Edmunds Community Manager

  • Lil' safety and a lot of torture :mad:
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,118
    There's no question in my mind that the head restraints in newer model cars permit less freedom of head movement than older models. I assume that this change enhances safety. However, depending on ones anatomy, it can also increase discomfort.

    I don't think any blanket statements can be made regarding the comfort of head restraints, or the comfort of one restraint versus another, because many variables come into play. In addition to peoples' anatomies; posture; individuals' tolerances, in terms of movement; the shape and contour of the seat; the amount of adjustment permitted; and the amount of time one spends in the car, all play a role in terms of comfort. What may be comfortable or tolerable for one individual may not apply to another.

    I wouldn't consider buying a car with uncomfortable head restraints, regardless of how safe it may be, and some of the restraints on newer cars are uncomfortable for me. I also think there's a correlation between safety and comfort. How safe are you, especially on a long drive, if you're uncomfortable?
  • acdiiacdii Posts: 753
    The head rests in the Veracruz are adjustable, you can move them forward or backwards, but in the event of a crash, they move forward to prevent whiplash injuries. Why other car companies haven't done this is unknown. They only have them for the front seats due to the folding of the 2nd and 3rd rows.
  • nine51nine51 Posts: 78
    We recently bought a 2010 Subaru Outback Sport (Imprezza) . I absolutely hate the head restraints. I am 6 ft tall and stand and sit fairly straight up. When I drive, I like to have the seats reclined back so I am quite a ways back from the wheel and my arms are just slightly bent. In the OBS I have to recline the seat even farther back than normal or else the head restraint pushes my head to look down at the steering wheel. When I turn my head to check my blind spots, I get whacked in the face by the head restraint. There is little adjustment in the restraint, it only goes up and down. If I pull it out and reverse it in it's track, then it is so far back it would not give any protection in a rear-end crash. Until now, I hadn't realized there was a change in head restraint design and thought maybe it was only Subaru that has changed them. Reading this thread and checking out a few newer cars, it looks like most of them have gone to this madness. Is this another way the Government is trying to get us out of our cars? :)
  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,305
    A few months ago I was offered a helluva deal on a 06 Mustang Convert 4.6L, AT with only 4,000 miles. Red with Tan interior. The wife flunked the headrest test and they couldn't be reversed. Who are these designed for?
  • No problems with my '06 Volvo S60. I'm 5'11" and SWMBO is 5'6" but neither of us experience any problems. We have a 6'4" friend who thinks the front seat is the best he's ever sat in. The head restraints are there should you need 'em, (God forbid), but don't intrude when you don't.............same comments for the rears. IIRC, the front restraints move forward in the event of a collision, to eliminate whiplash. No experience of that, (thankfully), and it's too cold to go outside to read the handbook.

    I've driven the new S60 and that's the same, (but with much better suspension).

    But.............they're head restraints, not head rests. In the same way that airbags are safety restraints not sleepy-time pillows.
  • nine51nine51 Posts: 78
    "But.............they're head restraints, not head rests. In the same way that airbags are safety restraints not sleepy-time pillows. "

    I was very specific to use the terms "head restraint" No, I do not think they are pillows to rest ones head on while driving. I don't like head "restraints" that intrude on my mobility in the drivers seat. Until this recent Subaru OBS, and a few rentals I have driven in the past couple of years (including one 2009 Subaru Outback) I have never had this much of a problem being comfortable in the drivers seat with head restraints that force my head too far forward. I would prefer to have at least an inch of space between the back of my head and the restraint, but with the new designs, I'm stuck with having my head right up against them most of the time,and I am one who reclines the seats pretty far back. I can see that some shorter people who don't or can't recline their seats back might really have a problem with these new head restraints.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,118
    I agree with you.
  • acdiiacdii Posts: 753
    They need to copy Hyundai's design, at least you can adjust the forward position to make them more comfortable, and in a crash they move forward for better protection. Since I learned how to use my mirrors from driving a semi, visibility around the headrestraint is a non issue, but I also find some are uncomfortable.
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    My own head restraint is fine, but I have seen the problem in other models and it is real. Has anyone tried to modify the head restraint internally on a car they love otherwise? Its just foam inside and would appear to be reasonably easy to carve a new shape and then recover at an automotive upholsterer.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,947
    I didn't save the link, but someone around here took their headrests off and ran over them. Bent them just right. :)
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