The Right Way to Sit Behind the Wheel of a Car

Sitting properly in a car is about more than comfort. Being in a good position will improve your ability to control the car and reduce your chances for significant injury in a crash. 

Even if you’ve been driving for decades, our expert tips will come in handy. Hover on the dots in the illustration to see which adjustments you might need to make, and get details for each adjustment below. 



Illustration by T.M. Detwiler

1. Get a Head Start
Line up the top of the head restraint with the top of your head, or at least the top of your ears. Leave no more than 4 inches between the back of your head and the head restraint.

2. Use Your Belt Anchor
The seat belt should cross the center of your left collarbone. Newer cars have an upper adjustable belt anchor on the door pillar to help provide the best position.

3. Sit Up Straight and Centered
Keep your body in alignment with airbags. This posture also helps you better control the vehicle and remain alert.

4. Aim for the Hip 
The lap belt should be low on your lap so that it hugs your hip bones, which are stronger than the softer areas of your abdomen.

5. Make Room for a View
Adjust the seat height to optimize your view over the hood. If you can’t tell how close other cars are, you’re not up high enough.

6. Fancy Footwork
Your feet should easily reach the pedals, allowing you to brake fully and firmly.

7. It’s All in the Wrist
You should be able to rest your wrist on the top steering wheel rim. Use steering wheel tilt and telescoping adjustments to accomplish this.

8. Tell the Right Time
Your hands should be placed at 9 and 3 o’clock, with a slight arm bend. This helps with control, and your arm is less likely to be injured by a deploying airbag.

9. Keep the Wheel 10 Inches From Your Chest 
This distance will help ensure the steering wheel airbag can absorb crash forces without causing significant injury.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the October 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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