What Cars Help Keep Your Neck Safe?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are more than two million insurance claims every year for neck injuries. Can your car seat protect you?

It's a painful wreck you never see coming, and it costs insurance companies and ultimately consumers more than $8 billion a year for treatment of neck injuries. That's why the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests seats.

"The best way to get auto makers to improve their seats is to tell the public that their seats aren't protecting them now and that's why we are getting better seats," said Adrian Lund with the Insurance Institue for Highway Safety.

Ford made a big improvement in it's seat design for it's new Ford 500. According to the IIHS, if your head and torso don't move together and stay in alignment you're likely to have a whiplash injury.

"It's not just that you have to buy an expensive car to get good protection, in fact there are expensive cars that don't offer good protection," Lund said.

For example, the Honda Accord, one of Honda's highline models, rated poor compared with the economical Honda Civic which rated good, the highest rating. Other highline models such as the BMW Five series, the Acura TSX and the Toyota Avalon all rated poor, the lowest rating, when it came to their seats.

But economy cars like the Chevrolet Cobalt, the Nissan Sentra and the Kia Optima all rated good.

According to Honda, "the next Accord will have the ace body structure" in other words they'll have the good rated seats in new models this fall.

Toyota said, "It's important to measure the whole car and not just the seats. Our tests show the Avalon received good ratings and should protect passengers from whiplash and neck injury."

Regarding its Acura model Honda said, "We have applied active head restraints on new models, we would definitely look at that result" on future TSX models.

BMW did not comment.

So when buying a car remember, a high price tag won't necessarily afford you a high level of seat safety. There's one car company that's the exception, and that's Volvo. All three models that were tested by the IIHS did well. The IIHS calls Volvo the gold standard when it comes to neck protection.