Sit right, drive safe
The drawbacks of poor seating posture and how to sit correctly.
Safety should be of paramount importance to all of us, given the country’s poor record of road accidents. We at WhatCar? have been regularly keeping you, the reader, updated on safe driving habits and tips on correct driving techniques.
While driving safely is a good practice, it needs to be complemented with the correct posture when in the driver’s seat. This is to ensure that you are sitting comfortably, within proper reach of all the controls and are able to quickly react to changing road conditions.
Here are our tips to improve your seating posture in the car.
Not close, not far
Drivers often either sit too close – almost leaning on the steering, or too far – barely able to reach it. Sitting close makes one feel in control, but your hand movements are restricted to a smaller area with a good chance of them getting tangled in case quick steering inputs are required.
Your peripheral vision too is hampered. Although you can clearly see out the front, your view of the cars on your left and right is narrowed down. You have to then turn your head more to check the door-mirrors instead of just moving your eyes and thus spend more time looking away from the road ahead. Sitting close also means you are sitting ‘knees-up’ and in case of a collision, the chances of the steering wheel hitting your chest and your knees hitting the dashboard is greater.
Similarly, sitting too far away from the steering is not very safe either. For one, you have to make a considerable effort to turn the wheel and sitting with your arms stretched out over a prolonged period will tire you. Also, in case of a head-on collision, since your elbows are locked, all the impact is transferred to the body which can cause injury.
The first thing that you should do is place the seat close enough for you to completely press the pedals. Also ensure that your knees are bent when sitting, with enough under-thigh support. To check for correct seat distance, press the brake pedal. If your thigh hits the seat squab, you are sitting too far and if the knee is bent too much with the brake pedal fully pressed, you are sitting too close.
Got your back
The next thing to adjust is the seat-back. Sitting leant back is comfortable and gives you a sense of space. But it hinders your reach to the steering wheel and it isn’t very safe either. The correct position of the seat-back is near vertical; this provides consistent support to the back even if you get rear-ended.
People tend to remove the headrests from the front seats to improve visibility while reversing. But the headrests are there for a reason – in case of an accident, it will provide whiplash protection and help prevent neck and head injuries. Set the headrest so that its top is as high as the top of your head.
Another common mistake people unconsciously make is sitting too high in the seat. Sitting tall gives a good view of the road and makes one feel more in tune with the things happening around them, but the drawback is that one tends to look closer in front of the car rather than far ahead. Looking far means you are able to spot trouble earlier and react much quicker. Sitting too high can also have you hitting your head on the roof if you happen to go into a pothole at speed.
The correct height is when you sit as low as possible without hampering your vision over the steering. If you’re really tall, a handy way to check that you are sitting at a safe height is by making sure that there’s at least a fist’s width of distance between your head and the roof.
After seat adjustments have been made, the steering is next to be adjusted. The steering should be close enough so that your wrists rest on the top of the rim when your arms are fully extended. This is to ensure that your elbows are slightly bent when holding the steering. The height of the steering should be adjusted so that it is at the same angle as the seat-back and you are able to clearly see the gauges.
The proper way to hold the steering is from the sides and not from the top or bottom. Imagine the steering to be a clock and place your hands where 9 and 3 would appear so that the hands are opposite to each other. This is so you have more control over the car and allows leeway for any extra steering inputs. Also, don’t shuffle your hands while turning the wheel.
WhatCar? seating tips
What you wear
Wear slightly loose-fitting clothes as much as possible so that your movements aren’t restricted. Body-hugging clothing looks good but isn’t very helpful when it comes to driving. Your knees, elbows and shoulders aren’t free enough to move as they please and you won’t be comfortable either. If wearing winter clothing like a jacket, remove it before driving.
For people who aren’t very tall reaching the pedals or even looking over the wheel could be a problem. Use cushions or booster seats to improve visibility. Getting pedals altered is an option but will render the car difficult
to drive for others who use it.
A lot of cars don’t come with seat height or steering adjustability. For these cars, try to achieve as close to proper a seating position as possible. Once the seat distance and backrest have been adjusted, make small, single-notch changes to have a proper reach to the steering.
Try to get as much support from the seat as possible. Once properly adjusted sit right back into the seat and though it might not feel natural initially, you will get used to it.