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The car seat and the correct position behind the steering wheel

09 August 2021

Correct setting up of the seat before driving is considered the obviousness and yet many drivers do not devote any attention to it during their daily commuting. Very often we are not aware how the correct positioning of the body and optimal setting of a seat, backrest and headrest are meaningful for our health and safety of driving.

Most of the drivers learn how the right position behind the wheel should look like before they even pass their driver’s license test. The routine of the daily commuting, individual habits or unawareness result in the fact that even the drivers with much experience do not devote much attention to the correct adjustment of the seat before driving. In the effect many people who use a car on the daily basis complain about the neck, back or leg pains.

However, health problems are not the sole consequence of wrong or uncomfortable positioning of the body in the driver’s seat. Apart from deterioration of the mood or feeling of uncertainty behind the wheel, it may result in delay of the manoeuvres, deterioration of visibility or the risk of suffering serious injuries during a possible accident. 

Why correct setting up of the driver’s seat is so important?

It is worth remembering that a car seat should first of all stabilize the body and enable free, yet firm operation of the wheel and the pedals. Thereupon it can neither be too far behind nor to close to them. Especially the persons who feel confident behind the wheel are likely to move the seat back to provide much space for the legs, or to bend the backrest backward in the semi recumbent position. A negative result of this setting up of the seat can be the foot accidentally slipping off the pedal or in a critical situation, the lack of possibility to press the brake or clutch pedal with maximal force when it is necessary to emergency stop.

Also this position renders it impossible to grasp firmly at the steering wheel, which may slip off the hands e.g. while driving on bumps. Moving the seat too far from the windshield may also result in limiting the visibility by the pillars B, which especially concerns small cars. The drivers who prefer this position also prone to move their head forward, which may result in pains of the nape and neck. Moving of the seat to close to the cockpit has equally negative consequences. In this situation the freedom of movement of the steering wheel and movements of the feet on the pedals are limited and in case of an accident the driver may suffer much more serious injuries caused by the explosion of the airbag or even may hit the pillar A with the head. 

How to take a correct position behind the wheel? 

Even though the correct driver’s seat adjustment is an individual question and depends on the body constitution, there are basic principles, which have to be observed in order to avoid health problems, make the daily manoeuvres easier, improve visibility and even driving technique. The car seat should be set up in the way so as the left leg with the foot resting on the clutch or a foot rest would be bent slightly, which leaves a large margin of movement in case of the necessity of maximal depressing of any of the pedals. We can determine if we have the freedom to manoeuvre the steering wheel or not by putting the wrists on it. If during this action the back has to be moved from the backrest of the seat it means that the seat is moved back too much or the wheel itself must be adjusted additionally. 

Also you can perform a simple practical test selecting e.g. an empty lot/square to practice avoiding of obstacles. If the practicing requires leaning forward and bending your back it is a clear sign that the position should be corrected. The next important element, which is forgotten by many drivers, is adjustment of a car seat headrest. Its central section should be on the same height as the centre of the driver’s head. It will allow to avoid neck bone injuries in case of an impact in the back of the car. However, the stabilizing influence on the spine exerted by the car seat has the largest meaning during a daily drive.

Read more: New trends in manufacturing of car seats

How does our position behind the wheel influence the spine?

Vibrations, shocks or sharp curves on the road – all off them have a negative impact on the condition of our spine. However, it is possible to use its natural abilities to suppress gravity loads by taking the upright position. Also for this reason it is important to adjust the backrest in the way so as not to bend too much forward or backward – the more vertical the better. In this context the adjustment of the car seat height is also very important – in the way so the driver can see the end of the car bonnet and can estimate the distance from another car without the need of leaning forward or hunching. It is worth remembering that the position, in which the whole back rests on the seat backrest allows to „feel” better the operation of the car and register location of its back axle. The seat should stabilize the body on sharp curves at the same time, therefore, e.g. sports cars are equipped with sufficiently deep, bucket seats. Also backrests are beneficial for the spine when they are profiled in the way to adapt to its natural curvature in the lumbar section. The kind of the plastic from which a car seat is made is also significant for its user. 

A comfortable driver’s seat – what should it be made from?

 Part of rear seat from EPP – overmolded.
Part of rear seat from EPP – overmolded.

Sometimes taking of an unhealthy position may result from lack of the sense of comfort of the driver, which is caused by a too hard or incorrectly shaped seat. Apart from a steel seat frame, which is to provide stability and mechanical strength of a car seat, its foam fillings play a crucial role in it. The upper, soft foam chiefly influences the comfortable feeling of a touch when harder and more resilient expanded plastics, from which stabilizing bases of the seats and backrests are made, are responsible for stabilizing of the body. Many years of experience of car manufacturers have demonstrated that up till now the most effective has been the expanded polypropylene EPP.

It not only features a high mechanical strength and optimal impact energy inhibition protecting the body against the accident effects, but it is also more resilient, thanks to which it provides optimal comfort of use. It perfectly suppresses shocks and vibrations, does not deform permanently, thus influencing correctly the driver’s position. After the stress is stopped the elements formed from it return to their shape immediately. It results in comfortable of use of the car seat and preservation of its properties for a long time. At the Knauf Industries plants a complete assortment of EPP foam elements is produced, which find their application in production of car seats and car benches, including headrests, armrests or even special footrests that provide comfortable position of legs. The most modern technologies of processing of the expanded polypropylene EPP  enable optimal balancing of the parameters such as mechanical strength and resiliency, as well as obtaining a precisely selected shape of the filling, in compliance with the individual design. 

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