More than a quarter of new cars sold in the United Kingdom give inadequate protection against whiplash for drivers and passengers in low-speed collisions, according to new research, the Daily Telegraph said.

The newspaper said that the study of 250 vehicle types found that manufacturers often set head restraints too far back, or too low, to prevent serious neck injuries even in minor accidents.

According to the Daily Telegraph, insurers estimate that 200,000 people a year in Britain suffer whiplash injuries, leading to pay-outs of £1.6 billion and women are more vulnerable because they usually sit further forward.

The newspaper said that the research, by the Thatcham group and funded by insurers, suggested that 26% of new cars failed to offer satisfactory protection in rear-end “shunts”, the most common accidents.

The Daily Telegraph said that cars with the poorest rating included several Volkswagens, including the Golf and Bora [observation suggests the US Jetta version has different head restraints from 2000-on European versions], Land Rover’s Freelander and Defender and Nissan’s March-based Micra.

The newspaper added that the best performers included Ford’s Focus and Mondeo and the General Motors Vauxhall Vectra while Volvo and Saab rated “consistently well”.

The safest position for adjustable head-rests was as close to the back of the head as possible, preferably touching, with the top of the rest level with the top of the head, the Daily Telegraph added.