Proper seat­ing po­si­tion plays im­por­tant role

Valley Journal Advertiser - - WHEELS SALTWIRE WHEELS - BY RICHARD RUS­SELL WHEELS

Many driv­ers set the po­si­tion of the seat in their ve­hi­cle once and for­get about it. But many oth­ers have to change the po­si­tion of the seat.

It could be that some­one else us­ing the ve­hi­cle, changed the set­ting. Or you are driv­ing a ve­hi­cle that is new to you whether a loaner, a rental or a new one.

Few driv­ers re­al­ize the role proper po­si­tion plays in op­er­at­ing the con­trols, vi­sion and max­i­miz­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of the safety equip­ment.

When en­ter­ing a ve­hi­cle for the first time, whether to merely move it, or to start a trip, take a few mo­ments to en­sure proper seat po­si­tion­ing.

This starts from the bot­tom up. The first step is to ad­just the fore/ aft di­rec­tion. Make sure your bot­tom is placed as far back in the seat as pos­si­ble with your back firmly press­ing against the back­rest.

From this po­si­tion move the seat for­ward or back un­til you can com­fort­ably place your right foot on the floor­boards “be­hind” the brake pedal with your knee slightly bent.

Merely check­ing to see if you can reach the brake is not enough. In an all-out emer­gency stop, you want to be able to place the max­i­mum pres­sure pos­si­ble on the brake pedal with your right foot and brace your­self with the left.

You may be sur­prised how far down the brake pedal will go in emer­gency brak­ing. You want to use those big mus­cles of your thighs for brak­ing and brac­ing.

Now, ad­just the height of the seat — if you have the op­tion. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, you should be sit­ting as high as pos­si­ble to en­sure max­i­mum vis­i­bil­ity. The higher you are, the fur­ther down the road you will be able to see.

Height also de­ter­mines how close to the ve­hi­cle you will be able to see — in all direc­tions. If you are height-chal­lenged, you might want to con­sider a seat cush­ion to raise you to the point where you can see prop­erly.

Chose the cush­ion care­fully, mak­ing sure it is not too small or stiff, al­low­ing you to wob­ble around on it. A larger cush­ion will per­mit you to sink into it and re­main in place, held there by prop­erly fas­tened and lo­cated belts.

Once we have the fore/aft po­si­tion and height ad­justed, it is time to set the an­gle of the back­rest. While it may be com­fort­able to re­cline the seat back for the short term, it is a proven fact that near up­right po­si­tion­ing places less pres­sure on the lower back for bet­ter long trip com­fort and en­cour­ages alert­ness.

The de­ter­min­ing fac­tor in set­ting the back­rest an­gle may well be the re­la­tion­ship with the steer­ing wheel and the airbag con­tained therein. To al­low suf­fi­cient space for the airbag to de­ploy in an emer­gency, our chest should be a min­i­mum of 20 cm from the wheel — the cen­tre por­tion of the wheel con­tain­ing the airbag. Prefer­ably we can al­low at least 25 cm of space. If you are for­tu­nate enough to drive a ve­hi­cle equipped with a tele­scop­ing wheel use that fea­ture to more ac­cu­rately set your dis­tance.

Just as im­por­tant as sit­ting far enough from the wheel to al­low room for airbag de­ploy­ment, is the sig­nif­i­cance of not sit­ting too far away. If we are too far from the wheel we will not be able to turn it prop­erly in an emer­gency.

For most peo­ple one quick way to de­ter­mine the proper po­si­tion in re­la­tion to the wheel is to stretch your arms out in front of you, reach­ing over the top of the wheel.

If you can drape your hands over the top of the wheel rim at the wrists with­out pulling your back away from full con­tact with the seat back, you will be able to drop your hands and grasp the sides of the wheel be­tween the eight and ten o’clock po­si­tion on one side and two and four o’clock on the other with a slight bend at the el­bows.

Now we’ve got the seat set. Not quite. Don’t for­get to ad­just the head re­straint — no­tice I said head re­straint, not head rest. This valu­able safety item is de­signed to re­strain your head in a crash and help pre­vent dreaded whiplash. If the re­straint is set too low your head can be snapped back over the top, ac­tu­ally in­creas­ing the like­li­hood of whiplash. It should be raised (or low­ered) so that the mid­dle of your head comes into full con­tact with the re­straint, not the back of your neck.

Now that we are in po­si­tion it is time to set the mir­rors. The rear view mir­ror should be set to prop­erly frame the rear win­dow en­sur­ing the max­i­mum vis­i­bil­ity to the rear. Set it to show the two rear pil­lars as well as the roofline and the bot­tom of the win­dow.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the av­er­age driver fails to set the side mir­rors to view see the ad­ja­cent lane, thus prac­ti­cally elim­i­nat­ing the “blind spot.” The in­cor­rect and com­mon method is to rely on them in­stead, to see to the rear.

Last but by no means least, the belts. Fas­ten the seat/shoul­der belt and, brac­ing your­self with both feet, push your bot­tom and back firmly into the seat. Make sure the lap por­tion of the belt is pulled down over your hip­bones to pre­vent the belt rid­ing up in a crash.

Next ad­just the shoul­der belt height — if pos­si­ble — to make sure it does not al­low the belt to fall off your shoul­der by be­ing too low. Now grasp that shoul­der belt and give it a firm tug to pull it tight across your lap, check your mir­rors again and you are ready to drive.

123RF

Few driv­ers re­al­ize the role proper po­si­tion plays in op­er­at­ing the con­trols, vi­sion and max­i­miz­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of the safety equip­ment.

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