Anton Andres / John Barney Biscocho | July 12, 2017 08:35
Four ways to find the ideal, and safest, driving position
The driving position: It's something rather basic but there are quite a number of people sitting the wrong way in cars without realizing it.
Be it being too close to the steering wheel or too laid back, having the wrong driving position can have dire consequences. Having the wrong driving position can lead to the loss of control or more injury in an accident.
So what exactly is the ideal driving position? Here are four simple ways to finding it.
It starts with the seats
With a simple adjustment of the seat, it will be easier to reach buttons, dials and pedals while driving. However, there is a fine line in hitting the sweet spot. Too close and your knees will be jammed up against the steering wheel and pedals. Too far and you might be unable to make the most of the car's pedal travel, plus your range of movement is restricted to your arm's length.
To find your ideal position, slide your seat forward until you can either fully depress the clutch or lay your foot down on the rest pedal. Now, your leg should not fully go straight when depressing the pedals as it reduces feel and increases effort, not to mention the added risk of injury should you get into an accident. If your knee is at a right angle, then you are seated too close. Some cars now come with a height adjuster, making it easier for shorter drivers to see the road ahead. Use it to your advantage for better visibility but don't set it too high to a point that you can't reach the pedals.
Once you're comfortable with the placement of your legs, adjust the back rest. If the back rest is too far back (think 'gangsta pose'), you won't be able to move the steering wheel so much as you have to reach quite far for it. However, it it's too upright, not only will you give yourself backache but you'll also end up with the airbag too close to your face. To set it just right, stretch your arm out and place your wrist on top of the steering wheel. If your arm is straight, it's too far and if it's too bent, you're too close. Your arm must have a slight angle to have better range of motion when steering. This brings me to the next point.
Set your steering
These days, most cars come with a tilt adjust on the steering wheel. This function allows the driver to set the height of the wheel. Some cars are also equipped with a telescopic function to set the steering wheel closer to you. Ideally, the wheel should be set lower than your shoulders but it should not hit your thighs. Also, the steering wheel should not obstruct the view of your instrument cluster.
For those who have cars with a telescopic function, bring the steering wheel closer to you if you feel like the pedals are just right but the wheel itself is too far. Once you've found the ideal length, adjust the tilt of the wheel. Again, it should not block your view of your dials.
It's 9 and 3
Take a quick look at a clock and notice the placement of the numbers. That is what driving schools refer to when they say 'place your hands at 9 and 3'. However, there is a debate as to which is 'more proper': 9 and 3 or 10 and 2? Now, 10 and 2 applies for older cars with much larger steering wheels. With smaller steering wheels and the widespread application of airbags, 10 and 2 has become rather dangerous. That position places your arms straight into the path of the airbag, increasing the risk of injury. With the 9 and 3 position, your arms are out of harms way plus you can turn the wheel more since your hands are set lower.
A word of caution though. Always keep your thumbs clear of the steering wheel spokes. A sudden movement of the wheel could bruise (or worse, snap) your thumbs. While we're at it, never set your hands at the 12 position. The amount of steering you can put in will be limited and your arm will be in the way of the airbag and, as much as you can, keep both hands on the wheel. To sum up, 10 and 2 is okay if you have an old car with a big steering wheel and no airbag. For those with modern cars, 9 and 3 is the way to go.
There's also the matter of adjusting the seatbelt. For those with cars that have that option, it should not brush the upper part of your neck. Also, the lower part of your seatbelt should be set as low as possible. The belt should not run across the upper part of your belly as it can cause more injury if a vehicle comes to a sudden stop.
A matter of comfort and safety
The tips mentioned here allows you to get a better grasp on your vehicle. Not only is there more range of movement, it's more comfortable as well since you no longer have to strain yourself trying to reach for things or end up with cramps because you're too close. Once you've settled in, you might just find yourself less stressed behind the wheel.