Last updated: August 2023
U.S. drivers spend almost an hour a day behind the wheel, according to a AAA driving survey. It might not seem like much, but if you’re dealing with neck, shoulder, back, or sciatic pain, your driving posture could be to blame. Luckily, you can solve your posture problems by making a few simple adjustments to your driving position and paying closer attention to your driving posture.
At Direct Auto, we’ve got your back, and this guide to the best driving position gives that saying a whole new meaning. With a few tweaks, you’ll be driving more safely and comfortably in no time!
Why Good Driving Posture Matters
Most vehicles aren’t designed for proper driving posture. For example, many car seats don’t accommodate the curve in the lower back, which strains the lumbar spine, and smaller compact cars might not have adequate legroom, forcing some drivers to contort their bodies into uncomfortable (not to mention unsafe) positions just to drive.
Why is good posture important while driving? Poor posture can lead to pain and discomfort throughout the body: in your neck, back, shoulders, legs, feet, arms, wrists, and fingers. And it’s not just chronic pain you have to worry about – one study found that drivers with poor driving posture are at an increased risk of serious injury if they get into a car accident.
How to Have Good Posture While Driving
Get into position
With your left foot on the dead pedal (that’s the angled, non-moving footrest for your left foot), scoot your tailbone as close to the seat back as possible. Keep your feet relaxed with your heels on the floor. You should be able to reach and completely press down on all foot pedals with the ball of your foot without moving away from the seatback.
Adjust your seat height
If your seat position is adjustable, raise the height until your hips are level with or slightly below your knees. This helps open up your hips and increase circulation to your back, which can reduce sore muscles. If your seat is still too low, try adding a seat cushion or wedge. Bonus: cushions decrease vibrations from the road, which can lead to injuries.
Your eye level should be at least three inches above the steering wheel while allowing plenty of space between your head and the roof. You should be able to see the road and your vehicle’s instrument panel clearly without having to tilt your head up or down.
The seat pan should support the entire length of your thighs while leaving a two- to three-finger gap between the backs of your knees and the edge of your seat. This is a more comfortable position for your knees, and it also improves circulation.
Tilt your seat back
Leaning far back in the driver’s seat might feel comfortable, but it causes you to jut your head and neck forward, which strains your neck and shoulders. Adjust your backrest to a slight 100- to 110-degree tilt to put the least amount of pressure on your back.
Support your lower back
Lumbar support for the natural curve of your lower back is essential for good driving posture. If your vehicle has adjustable lumbar support, set it so you feel even pressure in the arch of your back. If you don’t have adjustable lumbar settings or the lumbar support isn’t at the right height, a lumbar support pillow or even a rolled-up towel can comfortably fill the gap. The lowest edge of the support should be level with your belt line or the top of your pelvis.
Adjust your headrest
Position the top of your headrest so it’s between the tops of your ears and the top of your head. Your headrest should just barely touch the back of your head when seated comfortably.
Adjust your steering column
Did you know that a certain distance is necessary for a steering wheel airbag to deploy correctly? Aim for a minimum distance of 10 to 12 inches between you and the steering wheel.
While stationary, you should be able to sit with your shoulder blades pressed into the seatback. With a straight arm, your wrists should be able to bend over the top edge of the steering wheel. While driving, you should have around a 120-degree bend in your arms with your palms just lower than your shoulders.
Change your grip
Adjusting your steering column should also allow you to grip the wheel in your preferred position. Contrary to what you may have learned, the traditional “10 and 2” clock face position actually isn’t the safest way to hold a steering wheel.
The 9 and 3 position gives you the most leverage, but it could strain your neck and shoulders. An 8 and 4 position is often more comfortable for people with neck and shoulder problems. Keep a light grip on the wheel to combat fatigue, and as always, use both hands – steering with one hand makes one shoulder work harder and can twist your spine into an unnatural position.
Adjust your mirrors
You shouldn’t have to crane your neck to check your mirrors. Once you’ve found your optimal driving position, adjust your rearview and side mirrors so you can see traffic without having to contort your body.
Even if you’re maintaining a perfect driving position, a little fatigue and stiffness are inevitable, especially if you’re sitting in your car for long periods. Listen to your body and remember to take breaks. Park at a rest stop or other safe stopping area to get out of your car, stretch, and move your body.
While you’re refreshing your driving posture, why not refresh your insurance too? Get a free quote and learn how we can help you secure affordable auto insurance by calling 1-877-463-4732 or stopping by a Direct location near you.