Five simple tests to check the driving position and control layout of a car


1) The Praying Test. Sitting in the driver's seat, place the hands together, fingertips and palms touching, pointing outwards from the chest as if praying. The wrists should actually be touching the chest. In this position the hands will form a fairly accurate perpendicular to the body and it should be possible to see if they are pointing at the centre of the steering wheel. If they are not then the wheel may be offset.

2) The Fist Test. With the seat in the normal driving position ( i.e. a position where the clutch can be fully depressed without stretching and the hips well back into the seat) make a fist with the left hand keeping the thumb to the side of the index finger. The depth of such a fist will measure approximately 50mm and it should be possible to place the fist on the crown of the head. If it is only possible to insert the flat of the hand between the roof and head then there is insufficient headroom.

3) The Look Down Test. With both hands placed evenly on the steering wheel look down at the legs. It should be possible to see equal amounts of both legs between the arms. Frequently the left leg will be visible but the right leg will be obscured by the right arm which may indicate that the shoulder girdle is rotated to the left in relation to the pelvis.

4) The Right Leg Test. This test should be performed after driving the car for a short while. Once again, look down and examine the position of the right leg. Is it elevated above the level of the left or has it fallen out towards the edge of the seat? Is the right foot roughly in line with the thigh as it should be or has it had to come across towards the centre of the car?

5) The Kerb Height Test. Swing the right leg out of the car as though getting out, and place the right foot on the ground. Try and ensure the lower leg (shin & calf ) is in a vertical position. Now look at the surface of the right thigh. It should be sloping down towards the knee. If it is sloping upwards (ie if the knee is higher than the hip) you will have difficulty when exiting this vehicle.

If the car can pass these five simple tests then there is a good chance that it is suitable for that particular driver. By utilising the tests, a prospective purchaser should be able to produce a short list of suitable vehicles, from which they can then make a choice.

Bryan McIlwraith Bsc. (Hons) DO MRO.