Having the optimal driving position is extremely critical because an incorrect seat and steering wheel set up could potentially result in drivers adopting awkward, slouched or unsupported postures, which could cause permanent back discomfort too. Furthermore, driving with your seat adjusted properly will keep you better protected in case of an accident.
Well then, how should we best sit in the car? Here is a guideline to always keep in mind when positioning yourself behind the wheel.
1. Support Your Back
Slide your tailbone as close to the seat back as possible. Aim for a two-to-three-finger gap between the back of your knees and the front of your seat. If your vehicle doesn’t allow for the proper position, a lumbar or back cushion may help.
2. Lift Your Hips
If you can, adjust your “seat pan” (the part you sit on) so that your thighs are supported along their entire length and your knees are slightly lower than your hips. This will increase circulation to your back while opening up your hips.
3. Do Not Sit Too Close
You should be able to comfortably reach the pedals and press them through their full range with your entire foot. Safety is also a consideration here; this study suggested that drivers whose chests were closer to the wheel were significantly more likely to suffer severe injuries to the head, neck and chest in front- and rear-end collisions.
4. Get The Right Height
Make sure your seat raises your eye level at least three inches above the steering wheel while allowing sufficient clearance between your head and the roof.
5. Lean Back (A Little)
The angle of your seat back should be a little greater than a perpendicular 90 degrees. At 100 to 110 degrees, the seat will put the least pressure on your back. Leaning too far back forces you to push your head and neck forward, which can cause neck and shoulder pain and tingling in the fingers.
6. Set Your Headrest
Set the top of the headrest between the top of your ears and the top of your head; it should just touch the back of your head when you’re sitting comfortably. The headrest is also important in reducing whiplash injuries in the event of a rear-end collision.
7. Use Lumbar Support
If your car has adjustable lumbar support, set it (using both the front-back and up-down controls) so you feel an even pressure from your hips to your shoulders. If your car doesn’t have automatic support, a lumbar pillow or even a rolled-up towel can help.
8. Adjust Your Mirrors
Prevent neck strain by making sure your rear-view and side mirrors are properly adjusted; you should be able to see the traffic behind you without having to crane your neck.
9. Take Breaks
Even when you are perfectly situated in the driver’s seat, fatigue will inevitably set in, especially when you’re driving for long periods. Listen to your body. And take periodic breaks: Park safely at a rest stop or other designated stopping area to get out of the car and stretch.
However, should none of the above work, do consider looking into other alternatives, like a lumbar pillow, which could make your journey more comfortable. Else, bring it up to your doctor or physical therapist to see if something else is going on.