True story- Last week, my girlfriend's roommate kindly asked my girlfriend if she could move her car while she was out of town. Being the good person that my girlfriend tends to be, she performed the task and commented to me about her roommate's "ridiculous" seating position in her car. This made me think for a moment, and I began to wonder just how many accidents could be attributed to an improper driving position?
Upon a quick search of the web, I came across a bunch of information regarding proper driving positions, seat adjustment, where to place your hands on the steering wheel, how to adjust your mirrors... and the list goes on. So what does all of this information mean and does it really matter? To be frank- Yes, it does matter, but a good driving position is only relative to the specific car you are driving.
Take for example that I went from driving a Hummer H3 to a Smart fortwo (this is no joke, by the way) as my daily driver. Despite the fact that I didn't change physically (which also would impact driving position), I had to change my seating position due to the increased visibility in the Smart. The Hummer, in spite of it's commanding road presence, had horrible visibility due to thick pillars, small windows and taller dashboard.
Vehicular design greatly impacts our driving position which in effect, alters the way we drive. To be fair, some vehicles are designed with aesthetics taking precedent over functionality, which makes electronic gizmos like lane departure alerts, back-up sensors, and blind spot warning systems, commonplace in most luxury vehicles. So, for those of us who can't afford these automated nannies, how can we position ourselves to improve our driving and prevent crashes or even minor scuffs while parking?
Without me sitting down with every reader and helping them one by one (which I can easily do for $250 per hour), I have put together a simple guide to help you out:
- First and formost, you are driving a machine, NOT sitting in a lounge chair. Your ONLY job as a driver, is to get your vehicle from one point to another WITHOUT crashing. Please take note of this!
- Once you have determined that you actually care about others on the road, place yourself in the seat, making sure your lower back an buttocks are as far back IN the seat as much as possible. This takes strain off of your lower back and ensures that your body is properly supported. This also makes sure you sit tall... Sorry if this doesn't make you look "cool."
- Now that your butt is properly planted, slide the seat forward to ensure your feet can easily reach the pedals. You do not want to strain yourself to reach the pedals (when fully depressed), but you also do not want your knees touching the console. So a good position for most people is one where their knees are slightly bent throughout all pedal positions.
- Ok, so now that you can actually touch the pedals, its time to adjust the seat rake (angle) and/or seat back. Not all vehicles allow you to adjust the rake, but since that (along with the seat back) determines your sight lines, make sure you sit upright as much as possible to ensure good visibility, but are still feel somewhat comfortable in the seat. Again, sorry if this makes you look a bit dorky.
- Now that you can see what is coming towards you, it's time to make sure you can steer out of the way. Reach out to the steering wheel and make sure you can reach it without having to lift yourself out of the seat. Your arms should be extended, but comfortably bent at the elbows and wrists. Cars with telescopic steering wheel makes this fit a bit easier. As for the rake of your steering wheel? I would suggest that you adjust it for comfort, but also so you can see the instrument cluster easily and that it can be turned easily.
- Alright, now that you are comfortably (and securely) in place, it's time to adjust the mirrors. This part, is actually quite simple. For the side mirrors, position them to ensure maximum visibility on both sides of the car. Make sure that you can see just a little bit of your car in the inside corners, to ensure that your "blind spots" are minimized. As for the rear view mirror, just make sure that you can clearly see through the rear window with a good balance of road and sky.
- So now that you are seated correctly, can clearly see around your car, and look a bit like a dork (sorry, for that), where the hell do you put your hands on the wheel? This topic alone can be blog worthy itself as there are so many opinions as to the "correct way," but in my experience, I will tell you to literally feel the steering wheel. Most modern manufacturers actually shape their steering wheels to indicate the best place(s) to grip the wheel.
- Optional: If your vehicle allows for this, take the time to pair your cellphone to your vehicle's built in Bluetooth system. Trust me, you drive much better when your hands are on a wheel and not on a phone.
I truly hope that a bunch of you take the time to try out a few of these tips and let me know how it improved your driving experience. Frankly, I never thought much of driving position until I began dabbling with racing and stunt driving. Having a driver's license is a bond of trust, where the actions of your vehicle can be the determining factor for the safety of others. We shouldn't taking driving our vehicles for granted or discount the responsibility we have, every time we take the wheel.
Do you have any automotive questions that you would like answered or topics you would like to discuss? Feel free to ask away in the comment section.
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