Many drivers do not position themselves correctly in their cars and therefore seriously lack control and comfort while driving. A good driving position can actually help preventing accidents, improve safety should an accident occur, and improve driving comfort. To adjust to the proper seating position, use the following tips.
1. Wear proper clothing. Driving should be done with clothing that doesn’t limit the driver. In the winter, coats can interfere with proper steering as well as with proper adjustment of the seat and the operation of seat belts. Choose light and comfortable clothes.
- Footwear is obligatory. The shoes have to be placed snugly on the feet (unlike slippers) and fit nicely on the pedals (unlike boots, muddy soles, or high heels). A shoe with a thin but slightly dense sole is ideal.
- The driver is also advised to wear a set of pants that run all the way down to the knee, even if it means wearing a set of pants over shorts or a swim-suit.
2. Position yourself correctly in the seat itself. Make sure you sit straight and that your buttocks and back are square and completely squeezed into the seat. This helps to avoid backaches, possible back injuries and maintains awareness during long drives.
3. Adjust the seat distance. The seat should always be positioned with regard to the pedals. Press the brake pedal fully with your right foot and fully depress the clutch (in a manual transmission car) or dead pedal (in an automatic). The distance should be adjusted so that with fully depressed pedals, you knees remain slightly bent (about 120 degrees).
- To make sure your check is accurate, start the engine and press on the brakes a few times before performing the check to build up pressure.
- If the knee straightens, you are too far back. If it’s bent close to 90 degrees, it’s too close.
- A fully extended leg results in the knee locking-up. This reduces the leverage and feel of the pedals, increases effort, and puts you in risk of severe injuries to the feet in a collision;the straight knee will be fractured whereas the bent knee would fold down. Furthermore, the bone would project the shock up to the pelvic and lower spine.
- A knee excessively bent (when the driver sits too close) at an angle of about 100 degrees, does not support the body effectively and results in bad blood circulation. It can also hit the under-dash in a collision.
- The thighs should be placed as far apart as is comfortable. In small cars, most people can create a wide enough base as to lean their knees against the center console on one side and the door on the other.
- The feet should be placed with the heels on the floor and the balls of the feet pressing against the pedals. The right foot in particular should be able to pivot between the throttle and brake pedal while the heel is placed roughly in front of the brakes. This might mean that you don’t cover the brake pedal fully when pressing it and that pressing the throttle is done with the foot at an angle, contacting the pedal close to its lower edge. This is the correct way to utilize the feet.
- The left foot should be resting over the dead-pedal whenever not working on the clutch (or, in an automatic, at all times). This increases support to the pelvis and allows the driver to brace the body by applying pressure against the footrest in corners or in events of strong braking instead of hanging onto the pedals or steering.
4. Adjust the rake of the seat. This should be as parallel as possible to the steering. It is impossible to reach a perfect adjustment (and it’s also not really necessary), but by adjusting the rake of the seat to an upright angle of about 110-95 degrees, we can reach a suitable adjustment.
- We cannot reach a perfect adjustment because placing the seat too upright will put pressure on the lower vertebrae, place our head too high, and because the steering itself is placed in an angle. We can adjust the seat back to a relatively upright position and then use the adjustment of the steering itself to place it as parallel to the back as possible.
- After adjusting the seat, including the height and the adjustments to the steering itself (below), we check the adjustment in the following manner: We place the wrist of our hand just over the topmost portion of the wheel. We should be able to place the wrist flat over the wheel and even bend it somewhat over the rim, while still keeping the shoulders (shoulder-blades) against the seat’s back. This should be done with the arm straight but without putting in excessive effort.
- If our wrist only touches the face of the wheel (rather than be placed flat over it), or it we can only put the heel of the palm on the wheel, or if we need to lean our scapulae (shoulder-blades) forward — we are too far back. This will make us lean forward somewhat when we steer.
- If we can touch the top of the wheel with our forearm or touch the top of the wheel with the wrist with the hand bent, we are too close to the wheel.
- In vehicles with large, horizontal steering rims (mainly trucks), we cannot reach such a posture and we just need to check that we can grip the topmost portion of the wheel without locking the elbow fully and without bouncing the scapulae forward.
5. Adjust the steering height. Where adjustable, the steering height should be adjusted to as parallel to back angle, and to a clear view of the dashboard through the rim. The ideal adjustment should also allow us to grip the wheel properly (at 9 and 3, see below), with our palms just lower than our shoulders.
6. Adjust the steering distance. Where adjustable, this should be adjusted with the steering wheel height, to as parallel to the back as possible. While gripping the wheel properly, our elbows should be bent at about 120 degrees. There should be a minimal clearance of 10″ (and preferably 30cm) between the center of the steering hub and the base of the breastbone (sternum). It should also not be further away that 45cm.
7. Adjust the seat height. This should allow us to see forward clearly, while still having a clear view of the dashboard, and proper height relative to the wheel and pedals. In most cars, the proper height for forward vision should allow us to place five fingers (a hand width) between our head and the ceiling.
- In cars with open or high ceiling, adjust so that you eyes are placed just above the center of the glass, without the visor obstructing your forward vision when open.
- After readjusting the height, recheck the feet to make sure the height adjust had not compromised it.