Is it Bad to Sit Too Close to the Steering Wheel?

Absolutely. While airbags are designed to protect you in a crash, they can pose a serious risk if you’re positioned too close to the steering wheel.

How Far Away From The Steering Wheel Should You Be?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the steering wheel should sit 10 inches away from the driver’s chest for optimal safety. However, many drivers don’t abide by this rule, and because of the way drivers’ airbags are designed, sitting too close can be hazardous.

How Far Should You Sit From the Steering Wheel if You Are Short?

Usually, drivers sit too close to the steering wheel because of their height. Sitting closer may allow shorter drivers, especially those under 5’ 5”, to see above the wheel more clearly. Typically this is an issue for women and elderly drivers, who must adjust their seats nearly all the way forward to reach all components comfortably.

The DMV encourages shorter drivers to sit as far back as they can while still able to reach the top of the steering wheel, and both the gas and brake pedals. This gives the airbag room to deploy in case of an accident. If the driver is sitting too close while the airbag deploys, they will feel the full impact of the airbag on their chest.

If you’re a shorter driver, achieving the 10-inch distance can be challenging. However, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. Here’s what you can do:

  • Adjust Your Seat Back: Position your seat back more upright to create more space between your chest and the steering wheel.
  • Consider Pedal Extenders: If reaching the pedals is an issue, pedal extenders can allow you to sit further back while still maintaining control.
  • Consult a Mechanic: A qualified mechanic can adjust your seat or pedals to ensure a safe and comfortable driving position

Which is not an acceptable hand position on the steering wheel?

The “10 and 2” position, once standard, is now discouraged due to the risk of arm and hand injuries during airbag deployment, as modern vehicles have smaller steering wheels and forceful airbags. Instead, the recommended hand positions are 9 and 3 o’clock, which balances control and keeps hands clear of the airbag zone, and 8 and 4 o’clock, which offers a relaxed yet safe grip. Both positions ensure a good range of motion while minimizing injury risk in an accident.

Should My Steering Wheel Be High or Low?

Beyond just distance, the height and angle of your steering wheel are crucial for safety. Aim the steering wheel at your chest, not your face or neck, to minimize injury risk in an accident. Avoid tilting it upwards, which can lead to whiplash.

For the best ergonomic position, adjust your seat so your wrists rest comfortably on top of the steering wheel with your arms slightly bent. This setup ensures better control and reduces strain.

What is the Safest Position to Sit in a Car?

No seat can guarantee complete safety in an accident, but the seat behind the driver is often viewed as statistically safer in certain crash scenarios. This is because drivers usually swerve instinctively to avoid a collision, which can protect the driver’s side and the seat directly behind it. However, safety can vary depending on the specifics of each accident.

How Should I Be Sitting in My Car? How to Adjust a Car Seat to Avoid Back Pain?

Getting the right seating position in your car is about more than just how far you are from the steering wheel. Start by pushing your hips as far back into the seat as you can. Ensure your back and shoulders are snug against the backrest, providing full support. Your knees should have a slight bend even when you’re pressing the pedals, promoting comfort and circulation. The headrest is often overlooked but crucial—align its center with the top of your ears to protect your neck. When gripping the steering wheel, your elbows should have a natural, slight bend. It’s essential to avoid slouching or reclining too much, as this can put undue stress on your back and neck.