Chapter 3 – Driving positions
Once you are in your vehicle and behind the steering wheel, these are the errors, positions and movements that will prevent you from attaining equilibrium between your vehicle and yourself.
Having your seat too far from your steering wheel will quite simply prevent you from obtaining the information arriving from your vehicle which your brain wants to analyze and manage in order to help you in your journeys. This is the exact position taken up by those who are not at one with their vehicle. On slippery ground, in rain, snow, black ice and other conditions, this type of driver will extremely rapidly lose control of his vehicle.
The fact that the driver’s arms are at full stretch is going to hamper him in turning the wheel smoothly. The result will be a lack of precision in his driving and a higher risk of collisions. This type of driver is often found to have dangerous and aggressive attitudes, as well as a systematic failure to observe safety distances between himself and the vehicle in front of him.
Having arms at full stretch can result, even in an accident that takes place at a low speed, in reversing the elbow and completely shattering it.
Failure to attach the seat belt is the external and forewarning sign that the driver has no sense of danger on the road, even to the point of thinking himself infallible and untouchable. When you are driving, always be aware of this type of driver and keep clear of him if at all possible.
He is the classic example of the driver who is in practical opposition to his equipment instead of seeking symbiosis and harmony. As far as possible avoid traveling with this type of person – or, at the very least, be sure you fasten your own seat belt.
A slight improvement in the position
The seat belt is attached, the rear-view mirrors are adjusted, the headrest is closer to the driver’s head and higher, but the driver is still a little too far away.
The flow of information about the road sent by the vehicle to the brain is starting to come through but the driver is having difficulty in managing it and analyzing it. Generally speaking, this type of driver is not particularly aggressive and may even be cautious but remains fallible because of his physical and psychological distancing from his vehicle and this prevents him from mastering the situation and especially the vehicle by himself. He is not always in symbiosis with his environment.
The only moderately interesting aspect of this position is that, if the airbag opens in an accident, he runs no risk of impacting his rib cage. By moving closer still to his steering wheel, he will be more at one with his vehicle, his general visibility will be quite different, he will be much more at ease in his movements while having improved technical values to exploit in the case of bad driving conditions (wind, rain, snow, black ice and slippery conditions in general).
This is surely the most balanced and safe position
The seat belt is attached even before the motor is running.
The rear of the seat is as vertical as possible, which will provide the greatest possible safety in the event of a collision from behind.
The headrest is adjusted as follows: the highest point of the headrest is at least as high as the eyes, at most at the level of the top of the head, while at same time the distance between the head and the headrest is as short as possible without actually touching, since the head must remain perfectly mobile and not be leaning on the headrest.
These three points will enable you in the event of a collision from behind to ensure maximum safety for your head, your neck and all the upper part of your body, especially the spinal column.
The position of your seat must not bring your rib cage to within 25 centimeters (10 in.) of the airbag, since the latter opens in the event of a collision of anything more than 50 kilometers per hour (30 mph) (for more details, see the manufacturer’s handbook).
This position is also best in the event of a frontal collision. The seat belt will keep you in your seat and the airbag will at the same time prevent you from being injured by the steering wheel.
Your arms and legs are bent and, in particular, not taut and this will enable you in the event of an accident to be in a position of physical self-protection, giving you the first basic elements needed or absorbing the shock.
This driving position, which is systematically advocated by all driving instructors and road safety specialists, will precisely enable you to be physically at one with your vehicle, to derive the best possible passive and active information from it, while at the same time having greater spatial sense thanks to raising your seat as high as possible in order to dominate your vehicle and the road.
For drivers who have always been in the habit of being too far from their steering wheel and who want to apply this new safety rule, the following points are worth noting:
- Do not try to move close to the wheel all at once and thus adopt a driving position that is completely unfamiliar. There is a risk that you will find it too restrictive and awkward.
- Instead, over a period of days or weeks, depending on your capacity to adapt, gradually bring the back of your seat closer to the vertical and the seat itself further forward.
The closer you come physically to the front of your vehicle by moving your seat, the greater will be your sensation in following days of having mastery over your vehicle and over the situation. But do not allow yourself to be misled by this new feeling of confidence.
Points to note in adopting this new position and technique:
People who have always been in the habit of driving in a distant and dangerous position may find themselves having difficulty when they move closer to the steering wheel – and hence the foot pedals – in moving their right foot from the accelerator to the brake.
Indeed, in smaller cars, there is a risk of catching the welt of the shoe under the brake pedal.
This risk is virtually non-existent on large cars and on large automatictransmission vehicles. It can be easily dealt with, first, by paying attention to the type of shoes used for driving (avoiding thick and wide soles) and, second, by adapting one’s physical movement of the foot in transferring from the accelerator to the brake. This is one of the reasons why it is imperative to work at one’s driving position for at least a few hours, perhaps days or weeks, and not just a few minutes.