Proper Driver Seat Setup – Good Ergonomic Driving Habits

Posted on June 1, 2015

We spend a lot of time driving in our society, and a lot of us don’t necessarily have the best posture while we do it!  This can lead to neck, shoulder, low back pain and even headaches!  We provide you with the tips to properly set up your seat so that you can maintain better posture and pain-free driving!

Never adjust a seat, steering wheel or mirror that would affect your ability to see the road and drive safely.

Seat adjustment

  • Bring the seat at least as high as your hips so that your hips and knee are aligned or the hips are a little higher; not too high so that you have to bend the head down or to the side to see.  Make sure you are able to see the road and instruments.
  • Sit close enough to the foot pedals so that you can depress the foot pedals without coming away from the seat back.
  • Place the seat back at a 100-110 degree angle. This decreases the pressure on your discs in the lower back. Adjust the lumbar support so that you have even back support, you can add a pillow if the car lacks sufficient support.
  • Have the head rest set so that you can rest the back of your head on it with a slight tuck of the chin.  Make sure you still have proper view of the road and your mirrors.
  • Adjust the tilt of the cushion to that your thigh is evenly supported. Circulation can be impeded if too much stress is placed on one area.
  • Adjust the seatbelt to fit you, instead of the seat to accommodate the seatbelt position.
  • Adjust the steering wheel so that it is close enough and low enough to minimize reach. The less the elbows reach, causes less stress on the neck and shoulders.  You should be able to keep your shoulder blades set down and back rather than having to hunch forward.
  • Adjust your rear view mirror, if you need to adjust it down, it is a good cue that you are slouching.
  • Holding onto the steering wheel is important, keep your hands at the 3 and 9 position as opposed to the 10 and 2 o’clock position, keeping the wrists straight when steering the wheel.   This places less strain on the shoulders and allows you to better relax shoulder blades down and back.

Getting in and out of the car

  • Give your body a few minutes after getting out of a car to lift heavy objects out of the trunk.
  • When getting into the car, sit down first and then swing your legs into the cars. To get out, swing the legs out first (like a swivel) and then stand up to decrease lower back strain.

Following these tips will help you be able to drive without feeling like you’re working as hard to have proper posture.  Most importantly, they can help limit any pain you’ve been having or could have with driving!

Happy driving!

Carrol Esterhuizen, PT,  MHS, OCS, CPI, DPT, Doctor of Physical Therapy

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