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Driving Ergonomics

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 28 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Driving Ergonomics Driving Comfort

Ergonomics is a phrase more commonly used when discussing health and safety issues in the workplace and it relates to things like ensuring that your work station and your use of it and your equipment is designed comfortably to enable you to work without the risk of suffering from repetitive strain injury and other related musculoskeletal disorders.

Driving too, can cause problems if you have not addressed similar issues relating to ergonomics. It can cause you to suffer from back, neck and shoulder pain and can cause cramping and poor circulation in your buttocks and legs. If you are not sat correctly and comfortably, it also has the potential to cause damage to your spine. So, how can you drive more comfortably?

Good Driving Ergonomics

You should firstly ensure that your suspension is working well. Being subject to constant vibration can be highly damaging so additional padding on your seat can come in very useful, particularly on long journeys or if you drive regularly.

You should adjust your seat and steering wheel so that both feel comfortable for you. Your feet should be able to operate the pedals without you having to move your lower back away from resting against the seat. If you find you cannot do this, you can get a lumbar support or can even use something from home to put behind your back, such as a cushion, to give it additional support.

Taking into account your control over the vehicle which must remain paramount at all times, it’s recommended that you adjust or tilt your seat every now and again. This helps to change the direction of the effects of vibration upon your body but you should do this safely and it’s also important to remember to adjust your mirrors if you alter your seat’s position.

When buying a car, the seat is the most ergonomically important aspect to your ability to feel comfortable when you drive so be sure that all parts of it provide you with decent support and that all its adjustment controls can be operated easily by electronic mechanisms. Ensure that it is suitable in relation to your legs, hips and back in particular as car seats come in all different shapes and sizes. Basically, you should be looking for seats which allow you easy access to all controls and pedals using your hands or feet, that you can see all the instruments clearly and that you have a good all round vision from where you’re sitting.

An adjustable steering wheel should enable you to move it to a position and angle so that it’s easily controlled from your most comfortable seated position and power steering is an added benefit.

If you suffer from weak hands and wrists, you might want to consider an automatic gearbox which can help you avoid repetitive strain injury (RSI) which can come about over a period of time if you are constantly changing gears on a manual gearbox.

Mobile phones should only be used ‘hands-free’. It is illegal to use a mobile phone when you’re driving unless it’s via a hands free kit so you should make sure that the cradle and any external microphone and audio speaker are positioned in such a way to ensure good posture. Better still, consider using a Bluetooth™ earpiece.

The boot of your car should enable you to reach inside it easily but you should always remember to wait 5 minutes or so after a long drive before you attempt to take anything heavy out of the boot. In fact, stopping the car for, say, 5 minutes every hour or so and doing some gentle stretching exercises will not only be beneficial for your muscles and joints but will keep you alert too.

Finally, just like in the workplace, make sure that your car’s air conditioning, ventilation and heating systems work properly.

Following all of this advice should enable you to avoid conditions such as repetitive strain injury and other musculoskeletal disorders and make your driving more comfortable.

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