Researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are developing a virtual testing system to evaluate how seat and head restraints protect vehicle occupants in rear-end crashes.

Marcy Edwards, IIHS Senior Research Engineer, said in a comment piece on the organization’s website, that the long-term goal was to be able to evaluate how well each combination of a seat and head restraint protected people of all different sizes and shapes in a variety of seating positions and crash scenarios.

“Getting there is a multistep process and will require use of virtual testing with computer models as well as the conventional tools used in our original head restraint test,” she said.

“We’ll also need the help of scientists developing detailed computer models of the human body and the cooperation of vehicle manufacturers.”

The IIHS said neck sprains and strains, which typically occur in rear-end crashes, are the most frequently reported injuries in US auto insurance claims.

For this reason the organization said it was one of the first types of injuries that it turned its attention to when it started testing vehicles for crash protection.

The IIHS said its head restraint ratings has been a success and had led to improvements in seat and head restraint designs. Now with nearly all vehicles earning good ratings, the IIHS said its tests no longer differentiated among vehicles to encourage further improvement.

Edwards said she was looking forward to working with the industry to improve rear-impact protection for a diverse population of drivers and passengers with the help of virtual testing.