Trips, commuting to work, activities… We spend long hours behind the wheel, which is why it’s so important to have good posture when driving, not only for comfort and to avoid muscle injuries, but also to be safe in the event of an accident. Let’s take you through all the elements you need to adjust before you set off.
Four simple steps, in this order — seat, steering wheel, mirrors and seat belt — that will take you just over a minute to adjust and will ensure you’re sat with the correct posture to drive safely.
If you usually use the same car, you’ll only need to do this process once, but if you share a car with a family member, use a rental car or carpooling services, it’s essential you check all the elements below every time you’re about to set off.
The first step to sitting correctly behind the wheel is to adjust the seat distance from the pedals. Your legs should be slightly bent, never fully stretched, otherwise you run the risk of injuring your hip in the event of an accident. Ideally, when stepping on the clutch your leg should remain slightly bent. Too close and you’ll struggle to go from the accelerator to the brake; too far and you won’t be able to brake all the way.
Similarly, the seat should be far away enough from the steering wheel so that your arms are slightly bent. You should also have a good amount of space to handle the steering wheel comfortably.
Lastly, you should also adjust the height of the headrest so that your eyes are halfway up the windshield and you have full visibility across the width and length of the hood.
The ideal inclination of the backrest should be almost completely vertical, and your back and shoulders should always feel supported by it. This prevents back pain and although it may not seem obvious at first glance, also increases your road safety. According to experts, a backrest that is too far back reduces the effectiveness of arm movements, the headrest and the seat belt and can cause the ‘submarine effect’, in which the body slides under the belt upon impact.
To find out whether you are correctly positioned, sit with your back and shoulders supported by the backrest. Your arms should reach the steering wheel half bent and relaxed, so that if you were to stretch them, you could rest your wrists on it.
The steering wheel
Both the height and depth of the steering wheel can be adjusted, and, like the seat, its position should keep your back and shoulders close to the backrest and your arms in a position that allows you to manoeuvre comfortably and prevent damage to your shoulders in the event of an accident.
Also check that the height of the steering wheel allows you to see the dashboard and that your knees are not too close to the wheel or your hands touch them when turning.
The function of the headrest is not to make you comfortable and relaxed, but to cushion cervical ‘whiplash’ in the event of a rear impact.
If it is correctly adjusted, the back of the head should rest on the middle of it, 4-5 centimetres without support. Leaving it in a lower position can cause serious cervical injuries.
Once correctly seated, it’s time to adjust the mirrors. With your back supported and without moving your head, adjust the inside rear-view mirror so that you can see the entire rear window through it. The wing mirrors should be as open as possible to give you a wide field of vision with no blind spots. They are correctly placed when you can see the inside and outside without having to move.
Ideally, the seat belt should be positioned so that the strap rests on your collarbone and doesn’t rub against your neck. It should start just above the left shoulder between the neck and the shoulder and always close to the chest and stomach, to be effective.
Here’s an illustration from Road Safety at Work, which summarises everything outlined in this article: https://roadsafetyatwork.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Set-Your-Driving-Position-Mar-6-20.pdf