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Fundamentals not mental at all

Rohan Chabaud

There’s something you should know – driving is one of the easiest things you have learnt so far in life. Let’s not fool ourselves, it’s not really that hard to drive a car. All you have to do is turn a key, move a lever or two, push the pedals and turn the round thing.
The kids do it every day on some drool-covered Fisher-Price toy at two years of age, and most of us have been paddock-bashing in the old ute since we were seven. Of course I’ve never driven on the road, Constable.
So it’s clear that the mechanical part of driving is child’s play, but things change dramatically when we get our licences and begin interacting with the road and what it brings.
Suddenly concepts such as judgement, anticipation, concentration, assessment, planning, road rule knowledge, and a huge range of multi-tasking functions become de rigeur and without them we are going to have problems, like crashing and dying.
If we look at our abilities when we first learnt to drive compared with now, the skills needed back then were pretty basic. There’s no way a seven-year-old could handle complex adult skills such as anticipation and long periods of concentration. But we sure could chuck a broady!
Yet so many of us have not really moved on from those early days.
Take one of the fundamentals – seat position. Where do you have yours? And why? Most of us like to adjust our seat so it’s comfortable. Bzzzzt – wrong. What, are you in the lounge at home? Where’s the plasma screen and coldie? No, sorry, comfort is not the big cahuna in a car.
Since you are in a car and you care about this fact, to make it do car-type things effectively you need to adjust your seat for control. Nothing else matters as much. Sure, you don’t want to arrive at the river feeling like you have spent the last two hours in a cat cage, but control should rule over reclining-chair comfort any day.
If your seat is reclined a long way, with the back rest at more than about 110 degrees, you are sitting too far back. It might “feel” comfortable, but so did that nice soft lounge suite in the showroom when we tried it out with the missus, until we got it home and have a sore back after one episode of Top Gear.
With a reclined seat, the angle of the driver’s neck and curvature of the back are a chiropractor’s nightmare (but his bank manager’s dream!). If you actually walked around with this posture you would be helped with higher items at the supermarket.
From a driver control point of view, elbows will be almost straight which is physiologically weak for your arm muscles (try handballing the footy with straight arms) resulting in having to lean out of the seat and reach over the wheel when turning, and increased arm fatigue on longer journeys. It encourages lazy steering techniques such as palming.
If your seat is too far back the airbag will not be accurately timed with your rapid arrival at the wheel during an impact, and it may have deflated before you hit it.
Being way too far back (see nearest male P plater) can result in impact submarining, where the driver spears below the seat belt and misses the airbag altogether, or the seat belt whips their throat and neck as they fly beneath it.
Being too close to the steering wheel is a problem too, as arm movement can be restricted and the airbag can slam you back into the seat instead of capturing you at just the right moment.
Virtually every driver can adjust their seat perfectly using the Wrist Test. Push your shoulders back into the seat and extend your arms straight above the steering wheel.
If your wrists sit neatly on top, you are good to go. This means that when you relax and hold the wheel at 9 and 3 (see last article) your arms will he half-bent and at the angle of maximum strength – and therefore control – and able to hold and steer for hours and hours without having to fall to the bottom of the wheel from fatigue.
Combine this with a push of the left leg onto the foot rest or extend the clutch to the floor (look for a half-bent knee at full extension) and you will, bodily at least, be set for maximum control.
So put an end to the days of driving as if you’re lying up in bed. Give yourself a week to get used to it, because if your seat position was different before it will feel a little alien at first, but as they say, build a bridge and get over it. Are you in a lounge room or your beloved car?
Here’s your homework for next edition: How do you adjust your mirrors, and why? See you soon.

Short URL: http://www.theweeklyadvertiser.com.au/?p=1787

Posted on Dec 17 2008

Posted by on Dec 17 2008. Filed under Motoring. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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