Back ache, tight shoulders, stiff neck. All common complaints from people who sit for long periods and on a regular basis. But sitting in the driver’s seat is quite different from sitting at a desk. You might be forcing yourself to sit in an unhealthy position without even realising it, and the added bump and grind of the daily commute can really take its toll on your body after a while.
Sitting position for better safety
Correct sitting posture and position while driving equals better comfort, better visibility, and faster reaction times, which all boils down to better road safety. But it’s easy to forget and maintaining good posture is a habit drivers must learn to cultivate. When we’re tired we can easily start to slump, and this can cause muscle tension, back and joint pain, and reduced circulation, making you feel even more fatigued.
Guidelines to help you find the correct position
Use this step-by-step posture guide from driving ergonomics experts at Loughborough University. You can start with the initial set up positions – the seat fully back and at its lowest height, the steering wheel fully up and forward, etc. However, some cars won’t have adjustable seating components in some instances, so use this list as a guideline.
While sitting in the driver seat:
- Seat height – Adjust your seat to the most comfortable height that allows you to have maximum vision of the road. You shouldn’t have to peer over the steering wheel nor should it be obstructing your view in any way – which should be about 8cm above the steering wheel as a guideline. On the other hand, you should have adequate head clearance from the roof and your view through the windscreen shouldn’t be obstructed by the sun visor or other objects up top.
- Pedal reach – Adjust the seat to a position where your feet can easily and comfortably push the accelerator and brake pedals in and down to the floor without your back leaving the seat. Your knees should be slightly bent.
- Seat cushion – If your car seat comes with an adjustable cushion, tilt the angle so that your thighs are supported along the length of the cushion. There should also be a gap between your knees and the seat – you want to avoid pressure behind your knees cutting off blood circulation,
- Backrest – Make sure that the angle is right to provide support along the whole length of your back. Reclining too far back and you’ll end up having to bend your neck and head forwards to compensate. A good angle is between 100 to 110 degrees.
- Lumbar support – If available, adjust the lumbar support to comfortably fit your back with no pressure points or gaps. The lumbar support fills the gap between your lumbar spine and the seat and supports the natural inward curve of your lower back.
- Steering wheel – Adjust the wheel to an easy-to-reach position if possible while ensuring that it’s not obstructing your view of the display panel nor getting in the way of your knees or thighs. Your arms should be slightly bent and your chest should not be closer than 30cm from the wheel.
- You need to be far enough away from the steering wheel to give your seatbelt enough time to react and space for airbags to deploy in a collision.
- While driving, keep both hands on the steering wheel as much as possible so that your posture is balanced.
- Headrest – Position the headrest so that it sits centred of your head and as close to your head as possible to ensure the least amount of injury from whiplash. Make sure that your head is not pushed into a forward position.
- Rear view mirrors – While in a proper driving posture, ensure both side and middle rear view mirrors provide optimal view when glancing in without unnecessary head or body movements.
- Seatbelt – When strapped in, the diagonal strap should be over your shoulder and away from your neck.
You won’t necessarily get the perfect position the first time. Repeat the steps a few times more to fine tune your seating position. Many cars don’t come with adjustable seats or steering wheels, but you can add a cushion for height or a lumbar support for your back if you need to. Driving shouldn’t feel like a chore. Say goodbye to body aches and pains and start enjoying the ride!
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