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Douglas Romilly, PEng, Project Leader 

Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of British Columbia
Major Area of Study: Reducing Occupant Injury in Rear End Collisions

Role in Whiplash Prevention Project:

  1. To review the effectiveness of past prevention programs, develop new strategies based on injury prevention theory and methods, and implement these strategies using a stakeholder-networked approach across Canada to achieve success
  2. To develop new knowledge and new proactive technology (in direct cooperation with our industrial sponsors The Woodbridge Group, MEA Forensics, CogniVue Corp, and Point Grey Cameras)  into a new integrated whiplash mitigation system (WMS) that will: 1) remove the requirement for reliance on the “willingness of the occupant” to ensure proper operation and thus achieve expected design safety performance,  and 2) properly “tune” or enhance the seat safety system during the rear end collision based on the occupant’s physical characteristics and the collision impact severity.

Why is Whiplash Prevention Important?

While fatalities due to rear impacts are lower than in other collision types, injuries represent a much larger percentage (approx. 26% of all injuries) and typically occur as neck strain (i.e. whiplash).  In the US, NHTSA estimates that whiplash injuries account for > $5.2 billion in U.S. societal costs each year. When insurance claims are considered, whiplash accounts for 70% of all bodily injury claims, 43% of all medical costs, resulting in overall costs approaching $9 billion USD/year.  In Canada, the societal costs are also staggering with the Insurance Corp. of BC (ICBC) estimating that $135 CDN/car-year of vehicle insurance is associated with whiplash injury, and the total cost to society exceeds $464 million/year in BC alone (2005).

Ediriweera Desapriya, PhD

Research Associate, Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia
Research Associate, BC Injury Research & Prevention Unit, BC Children’s Hospital
Major Area of Study: Injury Prevention

Role in Whiplash Prevention Project:

Head restraint adjustment survey, Cochrane systematic review on effectiveness of head restraint preventing whiplash injuries, Vehicle awareness survey

Why is Whiplash Prevention Important?

Since innovation of head restraints to reduce whiplash injuries exceed almost 40 years now.  Globally costs of whiplash injuries are still increasing. Currently, the social cost of whiplash injuries exceeds $464 million per year in BC alone, which results in a huge economic burden. This cost includes those related to medical leave, insurance claims, lost work productivity and disability. Research shows that serious neck injuries arising primarily from low impact rear-end motor vehicle collisions can be effectively prevented by the use and proper adjustment of head restraints with better static geometry. The major issue is that the public is not properly adjusting their head restraint. Our aim is to educate drivers and passengers about traffic safety benefits of appropriate adjustment of head restraints.

Marc White, PhD 

Executive Director, Canadian Institute for the Relief of Pain and Disability
Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Family Practice, University of British Columbia
Major Area of Study:

Role in Whiplash Prevention Project:

Coordinating Knowledge Translation activities

Why is Whiplash Prevention Important?

Having experienced two rear-end collisions and several years of pain I am aware of pain and suffering arising from whiplash.  Now that we know that prevention is possible and that serious neck injuries can be prevented or reduced it is important to increase awareness about whiplash prevention and providing people with tools to assist them in making more informed decisions about purchasing or leasing vehicles, as well as how to optimally use the head restraint and seating system in their vehicle to protect themselves from unnecessary pain and disability.



Nima Zirakenjad 

Graduate Student, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of British Columbia
Major Area of Study: Machine Vision and Electric Field Sensing

Role in Whiplash Prevention Project:

We are designing an automatic vehicle occupant head pose (position + orientation) tracking system. The detected occupant head pose will be used to adjust the head restraint behind his/her head automatically while driving.

Why is Whiplash Prevention Important?

To avoid the social costs and health issues associated with whiplash. Whiplash injuries account for 70% of all bodily injury claims. In British Columbia, the social cost for whiplash is $600 million dollars per year which is approximately equal to $135 per car of insurance premium.

Daniel Mang 

PhD Candidate, School of Kinesiology (Formerly School of Human Kinetics), University of British Columbia
Major Area of Study: Redesigning the car seat to better prevent whiplash injuries

Role in Whiplash Prevention Project:

Design, manufacturing and implementation of the new car seat. Collection, analysis and reporting of experimental data from studies determining the effectiveness of the new seat.

Why is Whiplash Prevention Important?

One possible factor associated with whiplash injuries is the mechanical properties of car seats, such as head restraint position and seat rigidity. Most car seats have been designed to reduce neck injuries using a crash test dummy representing an average male occupant. However, most occupants are not the average male occupant and the car seats are not optimized to prevent neck injury for each individual.The objective of this project is to investigate how different mechanical properties of car seats can influence the interaction between occupants of different height and mass and the car seat during whiplash-like perturbations. We hypothesize that as seat rigidity increases, occupants of greater height and mass will elicit greater head accelerations and neck muscle responses than with subjects of lower mass and height. Greater neck muscle responses and head accelerations have been shown to increase the likelihood of whiplash injuries. By identifying car seat factors that will best protect individuals of different height and mass, we hope to design an "intelligent" car seat that can detect an occupant's height and mass to optimize specific car sear factors to best prevent whiplash injuries. 

Harry Luk 

M.A.Sc Candidate, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of British Columbia
Major Area of Study: Biomedical Specialization

Role in Whiplash Prevention Project:

Development of observational study protocol such that we can quantify the population and categorize the proportion of people who are using the head restraints correctly

Why is Whiplash Prevention Important?

Some of my family members have been in involved in rear-end collisions and luckily, their head restraints were adjusted properly for the most part which prevented serious whiplash injury.  It is important for the knowledge of proper head restraint adjustment to become common knowledge for the public.


Tonya Hyde 

Project Manager, Canadian Institute for the Relief of Pain and Disability

Role in Whiplash Prevention Project:

Whiplash Prevention Campaign website management and communications. Organizing educational events, promotion and general administrative duties.

Why is Whiplash Prevention Important?

This project is important because people need to know there is a way that they can avoid getting whiplash injuries through adjusting their head restraints, purchasing safer cars and, in the future, having a seat that makes adjustments for them. I have recurring pain in my upper back, neck and head from a side-impact car accident I was in 5 years ago. If I had known that I could’ve reduced these injuries through some simple adjustments to my head restraint, I would’ve done it in a heartbeat.

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