Being a road user comes with a whole list on inherent risks — fast-moving vehicles, distracted drivers and inattentive pedestrians are only a few of the hazards you may encounter while in transit. But what about the dangers you pose to yourself?
For this year’s National Road Safety Week, the Canada Safety Council wants to remind Canadians of the importance of proper ergonomics behind the wheel. Developing a musculoskeletal or repetitive strain injury is much easier than it would appear, and these can in fact leave you at a higher risk for car crashes.
According to SAFE Work Manitoba, more than 50 per cent of on-the-job injuries to people who drive for a living are musculoskeletal injuries (MSI). And while a significant amount of this statistic can be linked to heightened exposure — a professional driver will, out of necessity, have more opportunity to have their posture negatively impact their health — it’s still an injury risk that can be mitigated by taking steps to reduce the strain on your body.
A significant factor in injury is when a driver maintains a posture that causes them to reach forward or forces them to use awkward motions to control the vehicle. Additionally, in larger vehicles, the full-body vibration over a prolonged period of time can heighten the risk of injury to the lower back and spine.
Additionally, prolonged sessions at the wheel can fatigue the back muscles and weaken them, which makes them more vulnerable to injury than when they are not fatigued.
Here are some steps you can take to reduce risk of inuring yourself:
- Maintain a proper posture while seated, ensuring that your knees and hips are level and that you can reach the pedals and instruments without having to come away from the back of the seat.
- Aim to have your seat inclined at between 110-120 degrees, which will reduce the pressure on the discs in your back.
- If your vehicle is equipped with a lumbar support, adjust it so your back is evenly supported.
- The steering wheel should be close enough to you and low enough that you don’t have to strain your neck and upper back by reaching.
- Before removing any heavy items from the trunk or the back of the truck, give your body a few minutes to adjust to being out of the vehicle. Perform a few stretches to limber up.
- Where possible, break up your driving. Take small breaks every two hours or so — it’s better to arrive at your destination on time and well than to get there early, but in pain and stiff.
What if you already suffer from a MSI, though? According to the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, public health research has shown that these individuals are at a higher risk for car crashes than those who do not suffer from these injuries. Although more empirical research needs to be conducted into the field, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
With the Victoria Day long weekend approaching, the Canada Safety Council wishes you a pleasant and safe time. A reminder: if you’re going to be driving, be patient, keep your focus on your driving, wear your seatbelt and don’t drink.
The May long weekend has historically been a time where police crack down on inebriated drivers, and has also been one of the five most significant occasions for impaired driving incidents. According to Statistics Canada, in 2011 there were 1,341 incidents of impaired driving. That’s over 100 incidents more than the same weekend in 2010.
If you plan on drinking, ensure that you have a designated driver or else take a taxi. It’s not worth getting behind the wheel and causing injury, or worse, death.
Source: Canada Safety Council