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It's a common sight on America's roads today; drivers with their seats adjusted back in a reclining position and the driver appearing very relaxed while they drive. While being relaxed is important to avoid fatigue and maintain alertness, being too relaxed can be very dangerous.

Your mother's advice about correct posture was right. Correct posture in a car isn't about appearance. Proper posture can prevent collisions or help prevent injuries if you are involved in a collision.

Sitting upright – The most common type of collision in America is rear-end collisions. If you are rear-ended, your body, following the laws of physics, will always snap back toward the point of impact. If your seat is reclined, even slightly, your body will snap back even further leading to hyper-extension of your neck and spine. That is why neck and spinal injuries are the most common type of injuries on America's roads. Few people think of the seat as a safety device but it can be a very important safety device if it is used properly and that means placing it in the full upright position with the headrest just barely touching the back of your head. Proper posture will also put you in a position to take quick action in order to avoid a collision.

Bend your knees and elbows – You shouldn’t have to reach for the steering wheel or controls, nor do you want to sit too close to the steering wheel. You don’t want to sit too close to the steering wheel because you could be injured by the force of the airbag as it deploys. You want to position the seat so that there is at least 10 to 12 inches between you and the airbag. That way, in a head-on collision, your head will bend forward into the cushion of an already fully deployed airbag. Placing the seat at a position where your knees and elbows are slightly bent will help you avoid muscle strain and fatigue.

Hands on the wheel – There is now some controversy as to where you should place your hands on the wheel. The common wisdom is that hands should be placed at the 10:00 and 2:00 position. However, some states and safety organizations are recommending that the hands be placed at the 9:00 and 3:00 position to avoid injuries to the arms if the airbag deploys. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that there isn’t enough information yet to advise one over the other. Regardless, you need to keep both hands firmly on the wheel to maintain full control. If you drive with just one hand crossed over the front of the steering wheel, you forearm along with your nose will probably break as the airbag deploys and drives the back of your fist into your face.

Look up – You need to be in a position where you can see clearly down the road. You need to be able to look at least 15 seconds or a full block down the road in order to predict any hazards that may be coming your way. You also need to scan the driving situation to your sides and rear to identify hazards from those directions. Scan your mirrors every 5 to 15 seconds.

For more driver safety information please visit the National Safety Commission.

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