Sitting Safely in the driver’s seat

The practice of ergonomics for driving centers around how people sit in their car seat. How they move, or not determines whether they have pain on their trip. A trip that could last minutes – or hours.

It is helpful to look at the following tips for the next time you’re in your car. Some relate to long-distance travel, but most are beneficial whether you are headed to work, the market, or cross-country to see family and friends.

Let’s look at some of the factors that can cause pain and injury and how to correct them with a few adjustments.

Seat Height

Do you strain to see over the hood of the car? Raise your seat height to easily see the instrument panel and the road.

Adjust your seat height so your knees are lower than your hips. If you need to use a cushion or pillow, then do so. Thighs should always be supported along the length of the seat.         

Leg Position

Make sure your feet can comfortably depress the accelerator, brake, and clutch without your back leaving the seat. Rest your left foot on the dead pedal (it will also prevent riding the clutch, if equipped).

Back Rest

Head should sit on the head rest comfortably and still be able to see out the window. This is one way to prevent head forward syndrome which most people suffer from.

Lumbar Support

Most vehicles’ lumbar support is created from a “one size fits all” mentality. But most people are not the same height or body shape.

So adding a rolled up hand towel and placing it just at or slightly below the 12th rib will help put most people’s lumbar spine in proper position as long as your head is also resting on the head rest.

The lumbar support (whether adjustable or not) should provide comfort with no added pressure points or gaps between the seat and your spine.

Steering Wheel

Adjust the steering wheel so that you don’t reach too far or lock your elbows. The distance should measure 10” from wheel to the driver’s breastbone.

A great test is to put your arms straight out in front (above the top of the steering wheel). The top of the wheel should sit at approximately wrist level.

An important tip is to place your hands at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions. It’s a bit different than the 10 and 2 positions you were taught when you learned to drive. This reduces the risk of an injury during airbag deployment.


The neck of the driver should be in a neutral position, with the headrest centrally behind the head.

If your chin is angling toward your chest due to the headrest pressure, adjust it until it is comfortable.


Align the rear view and side mirrors to ensure adequate vision of surrounding areas. Though many cars are now equipped with sensors to help sight lines, don’t become complacent. Stay alert.

How to help avoid fatigue and injury

Here are some notes to keep in mind to prevent pain and strain from driving.

Your body isn’t used to being stuck in one position for sometimes hours at a time. Though you can’t always prevent long drives, you can remember some of these items to help your body recover from the jolts and positions you put it through.

Fatigue is often ranked as a major factor in causing road accidents. Fatigue occurs from insufficient sleep and when drivers are required to sustain attention for long periods of time.

If you are on a long drive, always make time for breaks. Get out of your car, walk around a bit, stretch, drink some water.

Avoid heavy meals prior to driving as they can cause fatigue. It can result in impaired attention, reaction speeds, vision and memory.

Get adequate sleep.

Just like viewing a computer screen, make sure you change focus while driving. This doesn’t mean staring out the side windows. It means glance away from the asphalt or car in front of you so that your vision remains sharp.

The vibration of your car on the road can transfer to your body through the seat and steering wheel. Maintain a neutral spine; your spine is better able to absorb shock when the lumbar curve is in a neutral position. This compares to a flexed lumbar spine position. Sit up straight.              

Always be aware of how your body feels while driving. If it’s tensed up, or your feet fall asleep, or you start feeling pain – pull over and rest. Get out and move around. Your body can tell you when it needs help.

Driving safely and without pain or strain will ensure a better trip for you.  

final notes

 If your body needs chiropractic, acupuncture or massage treatment after your trip or just from daily driving strain, remember to schedule an appointment with Shimer Chiropractic today at 720-340-4107. Your body will thank you.  

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