Driving Ergonomically: Keeping it Up on the Road August 21 2018
It is now common knowledge to maintain proper posture and typing positions while remaining seated in the office for long periods of time. We’re also more culturally aware of how our office chair affects our health. But many people do not consider their ergonomic well-being while traveling to and from the office – in their car! It may be an afterthought but depending on your commute time or if you regularly drive for client meetings, you spend a considerable amount of time seated behind the wheel. In fact, the average American spends 3 hours a day in the car. That’s more than 20% of your waking life!
So, no matter how cognizant you are of ergonomics at work, you should be equally concerned about how driving may be negatively impacting your health. Remember, ergonomics is a lifestyle, not just a chair you buy!
Here are a few tips for improving your comfort and ergonomic safety on the road:
Properly Adjusting the Driver’s Seat
The first and foremost thing you should do is ensure the positioning of your driver’s seat is customized for your body. A properly configured driver’s seat is the first step before adjusting your mirrors or steering wheel. There are a few key adjustments to make that can be made on any car regardless of make or model.
- Seat-Back Angle: The back of your seat should not be too relaxed and laid back. It should also not be shoving your body up against the steering wheel. As a general rule, adjust the back of your seat so when you lean up against it, your shoulders are sitting just behind your hips. This usually occurs when the seat-back forms a 100° angle with the seat itself.
- Lumbar Adjustment: Some modern vehicles include a lumbar adjustment, which supports the natural curve in your spine. If your car does not feature a lumbar support, consider adding a cushion that can be attached to your seat.
- Seat Height: It is suggested that you raise your seat such that you have a wide and comfortable view of the road, but not so high that the seat interferes with circulation to the legs. Your legs should not be touching the steering wheel.
- Leg Room: Ample leg room provides more comfort, but make sure that it does not impair your ability to react quickly on the road, as is the case with sudden braking. Your seat should be position far enough forward so you can fully depress the gas, brake, or clutch pedal (if applicable). This usually involves a position where your knees are bent slightly.
Mirrors and Steering Wheel
After you have completed adjusting your driver’s seat, it’s time to configure your mirrors and steering wheel in compliance with your new seat position.
Your mirrors, both side-view and rearview, should be adjusted such that you maintain a view of all objects outside of your peripheral view. For most vehicles, this means adjusting your side mirrors so that you can view the rear quarter-panels (the metal above the rear wheels) of your car. For your rearview mirrors, you should be able to view the top “lip” of your trunk.
The steering wheel should be set so that if you were to lock your wrists in a straight line, you would still be able to comfortably drive your car. You should not have to “reach” for the steering wheel.
All Devices Hands-Free
Another key note is to always keep your hands on the steering wheel. You should never be on the phone, texting, looking up directions, or using any type of device while driving. Consider investing in a mount for your smartphone so you can easily view directions or incoming calls in your front view. Pull over if you need to answer the phone or change your GPS settings.
As with any activity in which one spends a long period of time sitting, it is important to take breaks. Every two hours, pull over to the side of the road, get out, and take a 5-minute stroll. Not only does this promote blood flow, but it can change your outlook on what might otherwise be a long and monotonous drive.
Making these minor adjustments to your daily drive takes just a few minutes but makes a major impact on your long-term ergonomic health!