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Your Body’s Fit with the Vehicle

A driver’s position in a vehicle is critical when it comes to driving control. Proper positioning allows drivers greater steering control, as well as a dramatic increase in vision around your vehicle and down the road.

  • You should be seated in a comfortable, upright position, squarely behind the steering wheel, with your head restraint adjusted so that the top of the restraint is at a point slightly above your ears and – if possible – within 3 inches of the back of your head.
  • The seat should be properly positioned so drivers can easily operate the accelerator and brake pedals without having to lift your heel from the floor.
  • Drivers shorter than 5 feet 5 inches may need to use pedal extensions in vehicles not equipped with adjustable height pedals.
  • Sitting too close to the steering wheel interferes with steering, increases fatigue, causes stress and can injure you if the airbag deploys. Drivers should aim for about 10-12 inches between the center of the steering wheel and your sternum (or breastbone).
  • When properly positioned in the driver’s seat, as described above, drivers should be able to see the ground within 12 to 15 feet to the front, one and one-half to two car widths to the right side, and one-half to one car width to the left side.
    • To help prevent collisions, learn where a vehicle’s unseen boundaries exist.
    • Proper adjustment of the vehicle’s seat, mirrors and head restraint should help ensure proper positioning to maximize your view from the vehicle in all directions.
    • The rear window and trunk design of some cars may restrict vision area to the rear. In some vehicles, the nearest visible ground point may be nearly 40 feet.

  • In many vehicles, an adjustment lever on the underside of the steering column permits drivers properly position it for better steering wheel angle and height.
  • Some newer vehicles also have telescopic steering columns, allowing the drivers to properly position the steering wheel closer to or farther from the dash.
  • In vehicles equipped with a driver’s-side air bag, sitting closer than 10 inches from the steering wheel increases risk of arm, neck or facial injury in a crash. Determine a proper position by extending your arm in front of you and adjusting the seat forward or back until the top of the steering wheel is in line with the palm of your hand.

  • Drivers should strive to maintain both hands on the steering wheel at all times.
  • The hand position on the steering wheel will vary, depending on steering wheel design, seat height and length of your arms and legs. You should be able to adjust the seat so your right hand rests at about 3 o’clock and your left hand rests around 9 o’clock, as on the face of a clock. This allows for optimum control of the steering wheel.
  • Some drivers may prefer a slightly lower hand position, closer to 8 o’clock and 4 o’clock, depending on personal preference and position of the steering wheel spokes.
  • Mid- to low-hand positions will help drivers maintain symmetrical leverage on the steering wheel while minimizing chance of injury if the air bag deploys.
  • You should grip the steering wheel gently but firmly, with your arms bent at the elbows.
  • Hold the steering wheel by the outside of the rim, using both hands.
  • For better control and feel of information from the vehicle, use your fingers instead of the palms of your hands and position your thumbs up along the face of the steering wheel.

  • Head restraints, which are often called simply head rests, reduce risk of neck injury due to whiplash from a rear-end collision.
  • If your vehicle is equipped with adjustable head restraints, make sure they are properly positioned.
  • Normally, the top of the head restraint should be adjusted to a point slightly above your ears and, if possible, within 3 inches of the back of your head when you are seated in a normal, upright position.
  • To reduce chance of injury, avoid leaning forward while you drive.
  • Most drivers keep their head restraint too low. Be sure to check your head restraint and adjust its position accordingly.

Checking to see that you and your vehicle fit well together can be important to your safety and driving comfort.

Click on each of the tips to see how to adjust the fit of your car.