Going on a Road Trip? – Position Yourself for the Ride

Whether it’s time to take the children to school or head on a long car ride, there are certain things that everyone must know. First and foremost, the mental safety checklist is key.

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was enacted in the United States in 1966 to empower the federal government to set and administer new safety standards for motor vehicles and road traffic safety. In 1967, the first regulation of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards was developed by the NTMVSA, giving governance federally to control and set standards to protect drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. There are currently over 400 new regulations that have been introduced since.

The implementation of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act significantly reduced the number of accidents as well as injuries. Federal, as well as State and local government, are responsible for enforcing the laws set forward. This includes, but is not limited to, licenses and permits, speed limits, vehicle and tire safety, environmental safety in some states, and a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle without impairments.

Familiar items regarding safety are:

  • Seat belts
  • Air bags
  • Age of driver (varies per state)
  • Appropriate driving (varies per state)
  • Child safety and booster seats
  • Alcohol impairment
  • Drug impairment
  • Site impairment

Currently, electronic devices are a major cause for concern. Many states have developed hands free phone use only. This has lessened the amount of accidents from phone calls while driving, but the biggest concern is texting while driving. Although there is not a national law, 47 states do ban text messaging for all drivers. There are alarming statistics that are propelling the states to enact their own laws. According to the CDC, nine people are killed and over 100 are injured each day due to distractions. They explain these distractions as taking your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or your mind off driving.

Another safety concern is the airbag. All new cars are equipped with steering wheel airbags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) now recommends that the driver place their hands at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions. The reason for this change is to have your hands out of the way of the deployment of the steering wheel air bag. If your hands are incorrectly placed, serious injuries can occur.

Another area that drivers and passengers should be concerned with is the positioning of the body while driving. Sitting for short or long periods of time can cause various strains in the neck and back. Positioning of the arm can cause shoulder or elbow problems. Prolonged positioning can affect one’s circulation. All of these need to be considered for a comfortable ride.

Most seats in cars are now made to protect the neck in case of an accident. Lots of money goes into seat construction for safety and comfort but we are all different sizes. The key is to use the head rest and avoid sitting with the forward head posture while driving. Passengers should do the same. Looking down at an electronic device for prolonged periods can lead to future neck and posture problems.

Positioning the seat with proper back support will help you have a more comfortable ride. Using a back support, a pillow, or a towel to support the lower back will decrease the compressive forces on the spine and discs. The idea of this support is to hold you in a good position, not allowing the back to sag and flatten. A flattened lower back straightens the spine and increases the compressive load. You may even find that altering the positioning slightly over long periods may help to keep your spine happy and healthy.

Some people recline the seat slightly and this combination with the back support may help but keep the positioning of your neck in mind. Also, it is not a bad idea to take frequent but short rest periods where you get out and walk a little bit for bother circulation and mobility of the joints. Driving with your elbow on the car door can also be a problem. This position can cause impingement of the shoulder and nerve injury at the elbow. If you follow the rule of keeping your hands at the 9 and 3 o’clock position on the steering wheel, this will negate these problems.

There are also many people who suffer from circulatory problems like swelling, or worse, blood clots. Performing some ankle pumps every half hour can assist your circulation. Wearing support hose for long drives may also help. Keep in mind that support hose comes in various compressive ranges. Some have to be prescribed, but the less compressive ones can be purchased at many drug stores.

In summary, sweating the small things does matter. The ride should be comfortable as well as safe. Do your part while driving, and let’s hope everyone else follows…