Is the position of your driver's seat putting you in danger? There's a good chance it is, especially if you haven't adjusted it recently. From airbags deployed violently to simple cramps, you could get injured sitting behind the wheel wrong.
Fortunately, there are some adjustments you can make to ensure your vehicle's safety systems are protecting you, not putting you in danger.
Why Shifting Your Seat Matters
First, let's go over some of the reasons why you should bother to change your seating position:
Keeps you focused and relaxed. Poor posture leads to muscle fatigue, especially on long drives. It makes you cramp up and even feel so tired you can't focus on the road properly. Drowsy driving is a big problem.
Protects you from whiplash. A properly adjusted headrest prevents neck injuries in crashes. Yet, only 14% of Canadian drivers have their head restraints in the right position — and American drivers aren't much better off, either.
Helps airbags work as they should. Airbags save lives, but only if you're seated correctly. Because they can deploy at a speed of 200 mph, drivers can suffer broken bones and necks from the impact when they sit too close to the inflation zone.
How to Adjust Your Driving Position in 7 Steps
Take some time to get familiarized with your vehicle's seat-adjusting levers, knobs, and buttons. Then sit down and go through these steps.
1. Tilt the Steering Wheel
The center of the steering wheel should point at your chest. Move it up or down as needed.
2. Slide the Seat Forward or Backwards
You need to be able to fully step on the pedals without having to scooch in your seat. Sit at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel.
3. Get Higher or Lower
Your thighs should rest on the seat pan comfortably, from the hips to the knees. If you can't reach the pedals easily, lower the seat. If your knees are bent and higher than your thighs, raise the seat.
4. Lean Back
Your back should touch the backrest from the shoulders down to the hips. But you should still remain upright to have a good view of your rear-view and side-view mirrors.
5. Adjust the Headrest
The top of the headrest should be aligned with the top of your head. It could save you from neck sprains and acute pain.
6. Hold Onto the Steering Wheel
Years ago, drivers were told to keep their hands at the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions while holding the steering wheel. Now, we know the 9-and-3 position gives you greater control. Always keep both hands on the wheel: one-hand steering is a dangerous habit to get into.
7. Buckle Up Safely
Seatbelts are one of the most important recent car safety features, so use them. The shoulder strap should lay flat against your chest and the lap strap should be snug on your hips. Pregnant drivers, in particular, need to pay close attention to how they're buckling up. Look in your vehicle's manual for the lever or button that adjusts the height of the seatbelt.
Learn Good Driving Habits from the Start
Knowing how to adjust your driver's seat is key to being a safe driver. It goes hand in hand with driver's ed. These classes teach you the basics of road safety. They're mandatory in many states, and they'll stay with you on every adventure you take. Learn good driving habits from the start by enrolling in an accredited driver's ed course.