Do you ever feel as though you’re contorting your body into strange and uncomfortable positions when you’re in the driver’s seat? Our cars aren’t exactly built to comfortably accommodate our bodies, particularly the curve of the lower back, which can put strain on the spine. Vehicles can also lack headroom and legroom. 

Or, you might have the reverse problem if you have a small frame, where you feel the seat is too big, while the pedals and steering wheel are too far away. 

Our cars aren’t the only thing to blame: We can inadvertently develop poor posture habits when we are driving, as well. If you’ve ever felt pain or discomfort in your neck, shoulders, back, legs or other areas, it’s possible that you’re not sitting correctly in your seat. 

This isn’t just a posture problem. It can actually lead to unsafe driving habits, decreased visibility, and make you more prone to injuries if you get in a crash. Fix your driving position and drive more safely when you follow these steps. 

Start with your seat

Your car seat is designed to fit the “average” person, which means it’s very likely that it’s not automatically set to fit you. Thankfully, most vehicles today have a number of levers and buttons that help you adjust your seat height and angle so that it’s optimally positioned for your body. 

  • Start by sitting in the driver’s seat of your parked car and assess how comfortably you can reach the pedals and whether or not you can push them through their entire range with your full foot, without excessive reaching. If not, you’re too far away and should move your seat forward.  
  • Next, reach out and take hold of the steering wheel in the 9 and 3 position. Your elbow should be slightly bent. If your arm is straight, you’re seated too far back. 
  • Your headrest (also called a head restraint) is an important part of being safe and comfortable behind the wheel. Adjust it so that the top of the headrest is between the top of your ears and the top of your head, and so that the back of your head is within three inches of the headrest. 
  • Make sure your seat is at the right height. You should be sitting high enough to raise your eye level at least three inches above the top of the steering wheel, leaving room between your head and the roof of the car. This will ensure that you can see the complete dashboard and have full visibility over the steering wheel, and will save you from stress and strain on your legs, back and neck. 
  • Angle the back of your seat so it’s at about 100 to 110 degrees. This will minimize any excess pressure on your back. If you go back any further, you’ll wind up forcing your head and neck forward, which can cause neck and shoulder pain. 
  • Take advantage of the other seat controls, including the lumbar support and the part of the seat that you sit on. Adjust the lumbar support so that it applies even pressure across your hips, and tip the seat so that your thighs are supported and your knees are positioned slightly lower than your hips. 
  • If you adjust every button and lever and still can’t get the right fit, try adding a lumbar pillow or cushion. 

Make additional adjustments

Proper seat positioning isn’t just about your physical car seat. There are other car parts that you should adjust, as well. 

  • The steering wheel in your car is probably adjustable. You should be able to move it up, down, forward, or back. You should have at least 10 inches between your torso and the steering wheel to allow adequate room for the airbag to deploy. To determine steering wheel height, extend your arm in front of you and make sure the steering wheel is in line with the palm of your hand. 
  • Your seatbelt’s bottom strap should sit across your hip bones, and the shoulder strap should cross your chest without cutting into your neck. 
  • If you are shorter than 5’5”, you may want to adjust the height of your accelerator and brake pedals, or have pedal extensions added. 
  • Adjust your side and rearview mirrors so that you can see the traffic behind you without having to crane your neck. 

When you are properly positioned, you should be able to see the road within 12 to 15 feet to the front, one-and-a-half to two car widths to the right, and one to one-and-a-half car widths to the left. Not only will you have the necessary visibility for safe driving, your body will thank you. 

Learn more about proper driving position and get personalized instruction for staying safe on the road with Stop and Go Driving School. Contact us today to learn more about our courses.