In the driving seat

Back to the subject of work and movement this time let’s look at inactivity. I’m going to focus in this post on driving (hence the “object of desire” photo).

Being stuck behind the wheel of your van or your BMW 350i Special Edition GTV X1 ( I made that up … It’s a guess… You can probably tell), they’re both bad for you if you do it for too long without a break. You need to stop, get out and walk around for 5 minutes at least every 75 to 90 minutes, NOT 3 hours. Also, stopping for a sit down at the motorway service station for a latte and a muffin doesn’t count. If you do get out,walk around and breathe deeply you’ll arrive more refreshed, less stiff and 5,10 or maybe 15 minutes later than you would have done. That’s got to be worth it! Another little tip if you do drive long distances is to modify the seat back angle slightly every 20 minutes or so. Just a small tweak can help prevent fatigue.

Also pay attention to all that stuff in the drivers manual (if you’ve still got it) about headrest position etc. It really does need to be level with the top of your head, much safer that way… You can easily rise up the seat in a bad rear impact and your head can go backward way too far! Another little tip – don’t recline the front seat back for the passenger while driving. If you were to do an emergency stop or front impact crash they would get a very severe whiplash – I’ve seen it happen. They’re laying back and with the sudden braking the passenger looks up, chin down on chest then – impact – and then their neck is very forcibly flexed further. A really serious injury can result. Incidentally, talking of injuries, if you look at an older car, from the sixties say, it is truly amazing how unsafe they were! No head restraints, no side impact protection, no airbags, lots of sharp edges everywhere! Much though I love seeing some old E-type or MGB trundling down the A11 pushing 70, I can’t help but think “Oh my God, I do hope they don’t crash”. Lovely to look at, but they’re a death trap these days.

Back to the ergonomics. From a shoulder and arm position point of view there are 2 extremes and they both have issues. You can …

  1. Drive with your arms outstretched, elbows almost straight and often with your seat more reclined than it should be. “Yes you really do look like a real racing driver!”. Actually no you don’t -you look like a plonker. It’s unsafe as you have less control of the wheel and it’s bad for your neck and your arms. Sorry guys this is nearly always you -ladies hardly ever do this.   OR
  2. Drive so close to the wheel that it’s 6″ from your chest and you couldn’t bend your elbows any more if you tried. Likewise very unsafe. You cannot turn the wheel very far or particularly fast when like that; and it, too, is bad for your arms. Guess who does this most? Sorry ladies, and if you don’t believe me take a look around in traffic queues next time. If the reason is that you can’t reach the pedals otherwise… Get a different car.

Obviously what you need is a good in between. Another funny trend I’ve noticed is for people to lean in towards the middle when they’re driving. Not everyone you understand just some. It happens a lot with little cars like the KA (by the way how DO you pronounce that?). With some little cars sloping in at the top people lean in and it might be to do with the rise of the centre armrest too. This is a great way to put a strain on your spine, and for long periods too. When you’re out driving just look how many drivers heads are to the left of their head restraint, and make sure you’re not doing it! (Keep your eyes on the road too!).

Lastly, remember no holding your phone, don’t drive one handed, don’t drive tired and don’t fiddle around with your CD player for ages. Oh and wear a scarf when you go out – you know how cold it gets… (what a NAG I’ve been. I’ll probably re read this and tone it down a bit…    No…    It’s fine)

Sorry to be a bit preachy but please give these things some thought and maybe pass this on to someone you know who could drive a bit better (cos i’m sure you’re fine).

Till next time

Neil Folker DC