In an automobile, the headrest or head restraint is a device attached to the top of the seat behind the occupant's head. Headrests started to appear as an option on American cars in the late 60's. Headrests were required by NHTSA in all cars sold in the US, effective January 1, 1969.
Headrests are featured for comfort as well as safety, as they can break the backlash movement of the occupant's head during a collision; thus preventing potentially fatal whiplash neck injury.
When travelling in an automobile a properly adjusted headrest can reduce the severity of the neck injury. The top of the headrest should be in line with the top of the occupant's head. The headrest should not, however, be placed behind the occupant's neck. Maintaining an adequate separation from the vehicle in front while driving and pressing your back against the seat while facing forward if a collision appears imminent might also be advisable. This helps prevent the neck being forced backwards, and decreases the risk of whiplash.
Today, most headrests are cushioned for comfort, height adjustable and most commonly finished in the same material as the rest of the seat. (as seen in the picture to the right)