Ergonomics applies to more than just your computer workstation… a how-to guide to practicing correct ergonomics in your car.

Colleen Andrew

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As allied health professionals, we provide education and advice to clients about ergonomics in the home and in offices on a daily basis. But what about in the car? And what about for ourselves? Here are some tips and tricks to maintain a healthy posture and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries when driving.

Basic Vehicle Ergonomics

1. Start at the top. Make sure your head is in a neutral position with clear vision over the steering wheel. Adjust your mirrors to be visible from this position without needing to lean forward or stoop. Ensure that the headrest isn’t pushing your head or neck forward. If you have any difficulty seeing your blind spot, you can purchase small blind spot mirrors to apply to the wing mirrors for increased peripheral vision.

2. Keep the backrest in a very slightly reclined position, so that it keeps you upright, but so that you are still able to relax the shoulder blades into the backrest when your hands are on the wheel. If you can adjust the lumbar support, ensure that this supports the natural “S” curve of the spine with no gaps between you and the seat.

3. To get the distance from the steering wheel correct, when you reach forward and over the top of the steering wheel (with your back against the backrest), your wrists should hit the top of the wheel. Adjust accordingly but make sure you can still see all of the dials on the dashboard!

4. Keep your shoulders and elbows relaxed when driving and hold the wheel bilaterally with a medium strength grip – elbows should remain slightly bent. Try and keep the hands below shoulder level (the old “10 and 2” applies, but 9 and 3 is also ok).

5. The top of the legs should not come into contact with the bottom of the steering wheel – keep a clearance of about 5cm, if possible.

6. Keep the knees slightly bent so that you can move freely between accelerator and brake, and access the clutch appropriately.

Fatigue management is also super important for those who commute, drive as part of their job, access regional areas frequently or sit in traffic for extended periods… Sydney – I’m looking at you! So please make sure that for every 2 hours you’re on the road, you take a decent, 15-minute standing/walking break for about 15 minutes – the Aussie Standards recommend this for best management.

Importantly, if you feel any pain or symptoms, please consult a medical professional.
Check yourself out next time you get into the driver’s seat and take a second to make those little adjustments. Let’s not forget the importance of keeping your body fit and healthy with excellent ergonomics at home, in the office AND in the car.

Now that you have the basics under your (seat)belt to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries when driving, turn on the music and wind down the windows – it’s time for a road trip!

If you have any queries around ergonomics or training, at home or work, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.