Compact cars may not always offer good head- and leg-room. And their rattling, shaking, and rolling make matters worse, forcing drivers to contort into unhealthy driving postures when operating their vehicles.
But the vehicle is not always to blame! Often, it is our poor driving posture that adds strain on the spine. Over time, such postures cause chronic pain and overall discomfort in the back, neck, fingers, shoulders, wrists, arms, hand, knee, legs, and feet.
Let's first understand the symptoms of bad driving posture, then look into how drivers can correct this:
Symptoms of Poor Driving Posture
Poor driving postures adversely affect your body's health. It results in injuries and pains throughout the body. The discomfort may range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the 'damage.' If you encounter any of the following symptoms, you need to change your sitting posture right away!
- Pins and needles
- Painful elbows
- Aching neck or shoulder
- Chronic low back and lumbar pain
- Spinal complications or degeneration of your spinal discs
If any of the above is not treated on time, you might experience serious health complications like arthritis. But it is never too late to correct your posture and enjoy healthy driving. Following are the top 10 tips that will help set up the correct driving posture;
9 Tips to Help Set up the Correct Driving Posture Position
Adjust your Seat's Height
Increase your seat height from a lower-level posture until your hips are slightly lower than the knees. Also, adjust the “seat pan” (where your butt sits) to offer a comfortable platform for your thighs, knees, and lower hips. Try out this seat position and confirm if it allows you to operate the pedals with ease. You should also have your eye level approximately 3 inches above the steering wheel. If the seat position allows sufficient clearance between the roof and your head, you're good to go!
Bend your knees slightly because positioning them at a straight angle may be unsafe if the car crashes. But if you feel the seat is not comfortable, adjust it accordingly and check the pedal's position, eye level, hips, and room between your head and roof. Setting the proper seat height for your seat facilitates proper blood circulation and reliable lumbar support.
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Mind your Back
Slide your coccyx closer to the car seat back, leaving only a 2-3 finger gap between the back of your knee and the front of your seat. But if your car seat does not offer room for proper posture, consider buying a back or lumbar support cushion for additional back support. The cushion helps in alleviating and healing back pain. It also strengthens and relaxes your muscles, making it easy to maintain proper posture all day long. With this, you will have a strengthened spine.
When minding your back, you also need to check the angle of the backrest. The ideal recline angle in your seat should be anything between 100-110°. This slightly bent zone is relaxing and puts less pressure on your back. Avoid the 90° upright angle seat posture as it could cause discomforts early into your driving. Anything more than 110° is also not advisable as it creates a more laid-back angle that could hamper your visibility when driving.
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Check the Seat Belts
Most front car seats have 3-point adjustable seat belts. You can adjust the seat belt to fit you snugly and reduce the chances of getting injuries if an accident occurs. Fasten the seat belt to fit snugly across your chest and shoulder and over the thighs and hips, not your arms or across the face and neck. Avoid wearing the seat belt in a closed pack driving position as this may put a strain on the shoulder.
Seat belts also help in achieving the correct driving posture. The seat belts will restrain you from moving uncomfortably when the car rattles, shakes, or rolls. Besides protecting you from injury and giving you the correct driving posture, the seat belts will also keep control of your car. Ensure the lap portion passes across the pelvis to catch the pelvis' bones but not the abdomen. This is especially true for pregnant mothers.
The Steering Wheel
Getting the perfect driving posture can only be possible if you have set the steering wheel at an appropriate angle. Some cars’ steering wheel offers room to adjust for reach and rake, helping you find your ideal driving posture easily. If your steering wheel is adjustable, set it to a position that makes viewing the instrument cluster easy and with no obstructions.
You should be able to reach the wheel from the seat without straining your arms, chest, and shoulders. And when adjusting the rake in an up and down movement, avoid placing it too low. A lower driving position may knock your knees during sharper turns and also strain your shoulder. Confirm if you can comfortably move your wrists around the steering wheel with ease while seated. That way, you will be good to go!
Drivers suffering from acute back or neck pain can benefit greatly from an adjustable headrest. This pain comes when you're fond of driving for long hours with bad posture. Also, the constant strain of sitting in an upright driving position without the necessary support can make the driving a living hell.
Some seats offer adjustments for the head restraint only, while others come with a to-and-fro adjustment. Either way, when adjusting the headrest's height, its top part should be between the top of your head and the top of your ears. Let the headrest touch the back of your head but ensure the center part aligns at eye-level when looking straightforward. Ideally, the distance between the back of your head and the headrest should be as minimal as possible. The headrest prevents also guarantees reliable lumbar support. It prevents whiplash injuries in the event of rear-end collisions. That's why it should give as much comfort as possible.
Take a Break
Driving for long hours is not very different from spending your whole day working at the office, so you should be deliberate in taking regular breaks - every 2 hours. When you begin feeling stiff, and your knees are slightly tired, listen to your body, pull over the car, and take a 15-minute break. During these driving breaks, stretch your body and walk around. By taking a break, you allow your body muscles to stretch and relax. That means when you've gone back to sit in your car, you'll find it easy to sit comfortably.
Just so you know, the period you'll sit comfortably in your car will depend on your body condition. For instance, patients with musculoskeletal disorders are more likely to suffer from increased pain and stiffness after shorter periods. And in that cases, breaks will come in handy in making your drives comfortable. You are in for an exciting drive.
Adjust the Mirrors
Adjusting your mirrors to suit a particular angle will also help in getting a correct driving posture. Poor posture creates neck strains and may result in chronic pain. Once you are seated comfortably in your car seat, adjust the mirrors until you get an optimal side- and rear-view visibility. Well-positioned mirrors will help you pay attention to the traffic behind you without straining to crane your neck.
From this, we can conclude that the mirrors are vital for your driving posture and performance. That is because a mirror that is not well adjusted will call for you to move from the seat to check the traffic.
Arm and Chest Posture
For cars fitted with airbags, you will need to position your arm and chest to a certain distance for optimal driving. Your arms should be slightly bent at around 120° for better control of the steering wheel. When stationary, just before you start your car, be sure that the shoulder blades are comfortably pressed back into the car seat. Your arms should also be straight while the wrists bent over the edge of the wheel.
Always ensure that your chest is not closer than 30 centimeters to the steering wheel. If you are privileged to have a car with both rake and height steering wheel adjustment abilities, you don't need to adjust your seat to achieve the correct arm/shoulder/chest position. But if your car does not have this capability, you will need to adjust your seat to reach the pedals and steering wheel.
Position your Legs Properly
While trying to achieve the perfect driving position, ensure that your legs are not fully straight. Placing your limbs directly from the seat makes them prone to breaks and fractures during collisions. Use your feet to depress the clutch and brake pedals, then adjust your seat forward to keep the legs slightly bent.
Place the right foot on the accelerator pedal when accelerating and the left foot on the foot position. The left foot also performs best when on the clutch pedal, mostly in changing gears in modern cars. First, simply bring the seat forward, then confirm that it can easily and fully depress the pedals. If not, move a notch at a time until you can depress the pedals fully without stretching your leg.
Knowing how to position your legs will help you achieve the correct driving position. Therefore, you should always endeavor to sit straight, keep your shoulders against the back of the seat, and your legs on the pedal.
Following are the steps drivers should apply if they are looking to sit properly and in the right way while behind the wheel?
- Let your body lean back into the car seats with a reclined angle of anything between 100-110°
- Hold the steering wheel at a “ 9 and 3” or "10 and 2" driving position. You should be able to reach the wheel without straining your arms, chest, and shoulders
- Keep your left foot on the dead pedal when not in use (For manual drivers)
- Have your eye level approximately 3 inches above the steering wheel
- Bend your knees slightly and fasten the seat belt to fit snugly across your chest and shoulder and over the thighs and hips
- The headrest's top part should be between the top of your head and the top of your ears
- Adjust the mirrors until you get an optimal side- and rear-view visibility
- Your chest should not be closer than 30 centimeters from the steering wheel
- Your arms should be slightly bent at around 120° for better control of the steering wheel
- Place the right foot on the accelerator pedal when accelerating
- Take a 15-minute break every 2 hours into the driving
Note: It is not advisable for auto drivers to use both feet to drive. You can use the right foot.
Driving behind the wheel from your home to different destinations entails more than just avoiding road accidents. Your sitting posture will determine whether or not you will come back with foot, neck, knee, elbows, hand, tailbone, and lower back pain. The right posture offers reliable lower back and lumbar support. That tells us that your sitting posture is significantly affecting your driving comfort.
While every driver is likely to feel exhausted after driving for long distances, we hope that the above tips will help you learn the correct driving position posture in your car. The tips are meant to make your long hauls more comfortable and exciting.
With all that in mind, you have all it takes to remain comfortable as you hit the road for your long haul.