Reduce Your Risk on the Road

June 27, 2021

I’m Cassandra.
Movement strategist and expert, helping to change the way we think about movement so we can enjoy healthy, pain-free bodies.
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Whether it’s snowing, rainy, or foggy, less-than-ideal driving conditions mean less-than-ideal driving experiences. Which makes this a great time to re-evaluate your roadside habits! To be more specific, your driving posture. You probably know posture is important while working, but do you ever consider how important it is while driving? Hitting, or being hit by, another car while sitting out of alignment can lead to more significant injuries (and a longer recovery). On the positive side, being aware of your positioning from the moment you leave the driveway can actually support proper posture through the remaining day. So take a seat, and remember these important guidelines when you do.

  • It’s time to go retro for a moment and bring back the 10 & 2 or 9 & 3 hand positions. While these were originally promoted as a way to maintain control of your vehicle, it turns out they also double as a means for protecting your shoulders and upper spine. By keeping your hands level on the steering wheel, your shoulders are more likely to be in line with each other as well. This reduces the risk of lateral (sideways) spinal disc displacement upon impact. And it helps maintain muscular balance in the upper body.
  • Bring that seat back upright, friend. Yes- we know it might feel more comfortable to slump backward, but this one change will protect your entire spine from pelvis to skull. Slumping backward pushes your head into a forward posture that significantly increases your risk of severe whiplash (as the head moves further forward, more space is created for the neck to whip backward before hitting the headrest)! Starting your day in this position will also cause the back muscles to tire sooner, leading to what I term “early-onset muscular fatigue” along the spine. You’ll most likely feel this as increased tension by mid-day in the shoulders, neck, and/or low back. Keeping your seat between an 80-90° incline is ideal. 
  • Keep the legs parallel to one another, with the non-accelerator foot flat on the floorboard, and in-line with the hips. You should have equal distance between all lower-body joints, from your hips to your ankles. Letting one (or both) legs drop to the inside or outside compromises your knee and ankle joints, in addition to creating more low back compression/pain (as the leg opens outward or drops inward, we tend to slump more towards one hip, shortening the muscles on that side). This can lead to increased meniscus, ACL, MCL, patellar ligament, and low back injuries. If you can change the position of your steering wheel (and if needed to keep your leg in line with your hip), make sure it is high enough your non-driving leg can rest comfortably in front of you without having to swing to the side to find room. The knee should be bent at 90°, and the ankle should be directly below it. And your seat should be far enough forward that your accelerator foot rests against the non-engaged gas pedal with the heel on the floorboard. 

That’s it. Follow these simple driving postural tips for a safer ride, and bonus- find relief through the rest of your day, too. Happy driving, and happy moving! 

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