The first topic we run through will all students at any stage in their logbook or learning is how to set up their seat, hold the steering wheel and adjust their mirrors. We find many students who have either been with other driving schools prior to coming to Streetwise or have driven with Parents for any amount of time have usually been taught the wrong information.
Firstly, when getting into the driver’s seat and putting on your seat belt you should then check your leg length comfort by the comfortable push to the brake pedal in an auto or the clutch pedal in a manual. The ball of your foot should be resting and pushing onto the pedal. You should use the clutch pedal in a manual as it extends further down to the floor than the brake.
Second, we check the arm length to the steering wheel; your hands should sit at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock on the steering wheel. Much to the surprise of most old-fashioned driving instructors and many parents! The reason for this is that the airbag deploys at over 200 km per hour, like a big ugly vinyl balloon, if you hold your hands at the ‘pre-airbag ‘style of 10 and 2, your arms would be thrown upwards and you could lose control of the vehicle, but at 9 and 3, arms are often thrown sideways and you may have the chance to grab the wheel and take control of the vehicle. This is also why we encourage the “push – pull” method of steering rather than steering with your body or crossing your hands over when steering – if the airbag deploys you are more like to have your arms pushed away from the wheel and lose further control of the vehicle.
In conjunction with setting the seat up for you appropriate arm length we ensure your back is upright, rather than ‘leaning’ backwards, the further away you are leaning, the less grip you have on the wheel, in an emergency this is not ideal. Also leaning forward into the wheel is dangerous as it limits your ability to steer. An upright back in the seat ensures you are able to stay alert and lean your body around the door jams for clear shoulder checks when appropriate.
Finally, once your seating is corrected, you can then set up your mirrors. There is no point setting them up then adjusting your seat to find you need to adjust your mirrors again or even worse, you forget to fix them!
Your side mirrors should be adjusted to see just the tip of the back door handle approximately half way up the inside of each mirror. The more of your car you see means less road you can view! We would even suggest that over time and experience and certainly by the time of becoming a solo driver you could adjust your mirrors out and away from the side view of the car by 5%. The internal / centre mirror should be adjusted so that the extra “over-hang” is sitting on the left hand view of the car, this way you may just catch something from the corner of your eyes to the left. More accidents occur on the left side of a vehicle as it is harder to see, given you sit on the right. There is half a vehicle, then the chair, front passenger and door-jam obscuring your view to the left.
Setting your seating and mirrors up is the first and most important thing you can do when getting into the car and could possibly save your life!