Magazine article USA TODAY

Driving Biomechanics

Magazine article USA TODAY

Driving Biomechanics

Article excerpt

Many people are not aware of the common mistakes made during the act of driving that can reduce reaction time and create an unsafe environment for other drivers and pedestrians.

Posture impacts driving safety--such as the proper placement of your hands on the steering wheel can relax the shoulders, neck, and trapezius muscles and allow for quicker reaction time. Your peripheral vision actually can be lowered if your head, neck, and shoulders are not in correct alignment--and where your seat is positioned can increase pedal reaction time.

When you go outside, your body must adapt to the temperature, especially at the beginning of winter until you adjust to the colder weather. The body works in a similar way when it comes to posture if you are driving, sitting, or standing and have experienced stress or trauma (like a car accident). The musculoskeletal system must adapt to the new trauma-stricken environment of your body and, as a protective mechanism, will begin to compensate in an effort to adapt, causing further pain and injury.

The impact on your reflexes and reaction time when driving cannot be emphasized enough when contemplating the systemic consequences and impact posture has on driving. Even with dysfunction or injury, if you have the knowledge, you can adjust your posture to help you become a much more bio mechanically sound driver.

Biomechanics principles in terms of postural impacts on reaction time and peripheral vision are not concepts utilized in driving schools. If they were, we all would be better, safer drivers. In general, new drivers are taught to position the mirrors in a place that enables them to have the best possible visibility and to adjust the seat to the correct distance from the pedals for the most-fluid and rapid use of them.

If you have a lower back injury or condition, use lumbar support to make it more comfortable while driving, or make sure to hold the steering wheel in a way that allows for the most control. Biomechanics would align the body in such a way that you can react soundly to any unforeseen event and thus avoid some accidents. If your hips are in good postural alignment with your shoulders, then you will be a much better driver according to the principle of biomechanics. When you only have a split second to react, you best be in the right postural position.

As kids, most of us were told to straighten up and not slouch, but attempting to correct a problem and actually finding a solution to a problem is not the same thing, as our parents found out. However, with the right education and training, we can help fix existing muscoskeletal imbalances. …

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