Ask the Experts: Driving Ergonomics

Ergonomics October 21, 2020

Ask the Experts: Driving Ergonomics follow up questions with Jamie McGaha, OT

We’re following up on our wildly successfuly “When the Office Comes to You” Webinar with Jamie McGaha. Due to high attendance and a highly engaged crowd we were unable to address everyone’s questions during the live presentation. If you missed Jamie’s extremely informative webinar you can view it here:

Note that some of the questions will reference images and topics directly covered in the webinar.

Driving Ergonomics

What about hand positioning over long periods of driving?

Vary it. 9 & 3, 8 & 4. Don’t forget to take breaks. Try to relax the grip too.

Where can pedal extenders be purchased and installed

Pleas see the product list at the bottom of this page

Do you have a link to cushions to raiseseat height?

Luckily in newer model cars, seat height adjustments are so much friendlier to the vertically challenged. But if you have an older or non adjustable seat you could need help. I do not have one specifically, check out a few things online:

Are there any specific cars/SUV’s that are best for a comfortable ride (suspension) that are suggested?  (I have a spinal fusion C0-C2)

I would recommend a professional ergonomic car assessment in your current vehicle to discuss your needs physically as well as what the current pros/cons are of your current vehicle. This can help you search for features that would best fit your specific needs. One reference for height only:

If we adjust and change the posture wont that take away the attention from driving atleast for few hours till we get used to it. How to manage these cognitive change?

Driving is complicated, no way around it. However, the human brain is amazing at allowing us to attend to new circumstances and even positions. To be safe, I always recommend after a full adjustment to take your car around the block to assess how it feels reversing, driving, and parking. That way you can make further adjustments before getting on the road. This also allows for the brain to be build some memory for the new position. Before driving a new car that you may not be as familiar with, practicing using and finding everything in it. The biggest risk to our cognition during driving is not being able to rapidly respond to changes in the environment. That can happen if someone hits a windshield wiper, turns on their bright lights or someone slams on breaks. For someone with well intact cognitive function I would not be concerned about their ability to drive safely after comfortably adjusting their position as long as they feel safe with the position to operate the car controls.

Any suggestions for extra mirrors to lessen turning ?

Keeping in mind mirrors are for glancing to detect objects and vehicles versus staring and gathering detail, we should adjust our mirrors so we can see them without pulling the back and head away from their supports to turn the neck at a severe angle to see. That being said, if you have limited neck mobility they do make extended/auxiliary side mirrors, side mirrors with convex integrated mirrors and interior convex rear review mirror to provide wider angles.

Adjusting mirrors: Lean to the left so your head almost touches the window. Then, adjust the left mirror until you’re able to see the view of the rear end of your car. Follow the same procedure with the right mirror. Lean to the right until you’re in the center of the car, then position the right-side mirror so you’re seeing the rear quarter-panel of the passenger side. Adjust accordingly

Car technology is advancing with mirrors including blind spots safety tech, added mirrors, and vehicle object detection systems.

What do you think of the neck pillow/support?

According to safety standards the head should be close (within 2”) to the headrest for impact protection. A Pillow could greatly impact the safety of the design. Most headrests are adjusted too low. The headrest is also impacted by the back-rest position, if you are too reclined you will likely not be upright/tall enough for the headrest, this varies on model/age of car greatly. Some cars have a very forward headrests with front back adjustment, only up/down, in that case if you can’t swap the seat/headrest, you may need to adjust the back-seat positioning to accommodate.

Do you have a best resource for making adaptations to delivery trucks….fleet trucks.  Lumbar, pedal extenders, seat cushions, etc.

Many options available online, resources below. Besides the ergonomics of driving, the ergonomics of material handling are greatly important for these occupations. Using good body mechanics to lift/carry and dolly’s/rolling carts to assist with loading/unloading. It is also important deliveries and materials are organized appropriate to unloading needs and schedule in order to maximize time and prevent unnecessary body strain.

Most cars have a seat angled upwards. i don’t believe there are many that can angle the front downwards.  Does it matter if your legs can’t be parallel to the floor? Most of the pics you showed reflected legs that were angled up

It is going to depend greatly on the car and person. Ideally, we want to try to keep a level angle between the hips and knees, but that ratio will vary, especially if you are in a tall truck vs a small electric car. We want to avoid extremes of the knee posture being pointed sharply above the hips or the knees fully extended to reach pedals. If you are sitting too low you may find that upward angle far increased and the knees quite high as a result; raising the seat height first, then adjusting the back rest can assist with improving that angle so it is not extreme and more “neutral” for the driver. Very short individuals, especially those in older cars with fewer adjustments, may find the seat angle is very high upward and “buckets” them in quite a bit without a way to raise up and event that angle. Adjustments and the possible addition of a wedge cushion may assist (depending on the car) with making a more even seat angle if needed. Always ensure no driver in too close the top of the interior cab and can wear their seat belt safely across the pelvis after adjustments and additions, safety first.

Any suggestions for kids and electronics

Hands free is the way to be for any aged driver.  If you have younger children using electronics in the back seat, keeping volume low or use of headphones (if appropriate) to avoid distracting the driver. Many tablets can come with stands or be mounted to the back of a seat for viewing so you can avoid holding/gripping in one position for a long time.

Is there a go to website compatible for Toyota Camry? for the headrest

See below resources. Other option- swap out for non-factory, however no warranty.

Car Resources:

Do you have experience or questions in the realm of driving ergonomics? Let us know below!

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