Four steps to the safest driving position
Your car has the latest safety features, you drive carefully, your record is spotless. You reckon you’re about as safe a driver as you can be.
But have you thought about how you sit behind the wheel? Many drivers never give it a second thought, but it can have a big impact on their safety.
Mark Lane, managing director of Murcotts Driving Excellence, says the organisation’s driver-training courses all have a mandatory driving-position aspect because so many drivers get it wrong.
“We put people through exercises where they can see what a difference seating position makes to the control they have over the vehicle,” says Lane. “We do it for a couple of reasons – one, from a safety point of view and, two, from a car-control point of view.”
Lane says the safety aspect of a correct driving position cannot be understated. If you are not seated correctly, your car’s safety devices might not be able to help you in an accident.
“Talk to paramedics and they will tell you about submarining, where somebody is sitting too far back in their seat and ‘submarines’ underneath the seatbelt,” says Lane. “You want to be sure you’re seated safely in the event of a crash, that you’re best-protected.”
But how do you find a driving position that doesn’t just feel right but is safe? Do what Murcotts Driving Excellence teaches and take these four easy steps.
Step 1 – Legs and feet
How far should you be from the pedals? “You should be able to put your foot behind the brake pedal and touch what we call the firewall, and still have a bit of a bend in your leg,” says Lane.
“Now put your foot on the brake pedal and see if you can pivot it from the brake over to the accelerator. If it’s too cramped, move the seat back a little bit but not too far.”
Step 2 – Seat height
And how high? “A lot of people, especially if they’re in a 4WD, will say, ‘I’m sitting up a bit higher, I can see better’ and then ramp the seat right up. But if you’re sitting too high, you’ll have a natural propensity to look down. Your eye line should be no higher than halfway up the windscreen. That helps you to look up the road,” says Lane.
Step 3 – Arms and hands
“Now extend your arms but don’t stretch them out,” says Lane. “Your wrists should be able to touch the top of the steering wheel. If it’s too far away, move the seat forward, recline the seat up a little, or unlock the steering wheel and pull it out a touch.
“Your hands should be at the ‘9’ and ‘3’ positions. Many people will say ‘10’ and ‘2’, but that’s changed because the design of steering wheels has changed. By getting your hands into ‘9’ and ‘3’ you’re relaxing the shoulders and have much more of a turning circle before you have to drop a hand off the wheel, which means much more control.”
Step 4 – Head restraint
“Nearly everybody calls it a headrest because that’s what they use them for but it’s not a headrest, it’s a head restraint,” says Lane. “It’s there to protect your head in a crash and we find drivers either have it too low or too high.
“It should be adjusted so it covers the back of the middle of your skull. It’s there to prevent your head whipping back over the back of the seat.”