It’s a matter of comfort and safety
Let’s face it – driving can be a pain. With all the vehicles on the road, and no shortage of clueless and aggressive drivers out there, getting from point A to point B can be very stressful.
Dealing with the stress of driving is one thing, but driving for a living can be the source of another kind of pain – in your muscular-skeletal system. By decreasing your energy level, attentiveness or range of motion, driving with bodily pain can increase your risk of an auto body accident.
While statistics for North America are hard to come by, the British Chiropractic Association reported recently that 32,000 people each month visit one of its members with a back problem linked to driving posture. One association member pointed out that there is almost twice as much pressure on your back when you’re sitting than there is when you’re standing up.
Making sure you’re in a comfortable safe driving position, especially for long-distance rides, is a safety dimension many of us overlook. While the idea makes sense, everybody’s physique is different, so how do you know whether you’re in the right driving position?
Center Yourself Behind the Wheel
Ever see a driver who sits so his head is almost in the middle of his car? The look may say to others “I’m a cool dude,” but the position is stressful to your arms, neck and spine. Sitting centered behind the steering wheel ensures that it’s an equal stretch for each arm to reach the steering wheel.
Pedals and Steering Wheel in Easy Reach
Your seat should be adjusted just far enough forward so you don’t have to stretch to reach the pedals or steering wheel, which is fatiguing. Both your elbows and knees should be slightly bent when your hands and feet are touching the wheel and pedals. Depending on your build, you may have to tilt your seat back a bit for the right balance.
As for hand positioning, most experts recommend the “9 o’clock and 3 o’clock” positions on the wheel. More than a matter of comfort, in the era of air bags it’s a safety issue. At the old “10 and 2 o’clock” position, your hands could strike your face by an airbag being deployed.
Sit Reasonably Upright
Leaning too far forward or too far back in the driver’s seat puts undue stress on your back. You should tilt the backrest so that your shoulder blades are resting against the back of the seat, your lower back is being supported, and your bottom is tucked snugly into the corner where the backrest meets the seat.
Get the Headrest Right
“Head rest” is a misleading name for the piece added to the tops of vehicle seats a generation ago. Its purpose isn’t to provide a kind of pillow to rest your head, but a restraint to prevent whiplash. If yours is adjustable, raise or lower the headrest so it’s slightly above the point where the back of your skull meets your neck.
Specialists point out that no matter how comfortable your driving position, it’s fatiguing to remain in any single position for long periods of time. Within the guidelines we’ve just covered, it’s important to vary how you sit for anything more than a short drive. If you have a long way to go, the best way to avoid fatigue, pain and injury is to stop and get out of your vehicle once every two hours or so.