Saturday, January 16, 1999
By H.Kishie Singh
HAVE you ever noticed how Formulae One and rally drivers sit? There is a definite stance which an alert driver must take, physically and mentally.
Physically, you must sit upright. The seat is extremely well-designed to provide safety combined with comfort. Seat belts help. Your shoulder blades should be resting against the back rest. There is a reason for this. Tell you later! Arms should be almost straight, slightly bent at the elbow, ready to go rigid should a situation arise. There is a reason for this also. Slightly loose elbows are comfortable. The hands are free to move from the 10 O clock - 2 O clock position to either the horn or the gear shift lever. Leaning out of the window to inspect the rear wheel at speed, arm on the window sill, and other fancy positions like holding the roof are not recommended. Rigid arms will lead to excessive driver fatigue.
On a hill road, this 10-2 position is very useful. It allows you to move from an extreme left hand turn to a H.P.R. (Hair Pin Right) in rally parlance.
This has to be one gentle fluid move. No hesitation, on jerks. A series of jabs, or even one sudden move can destabilise the car. On a corner, 80 per cent of the weight is on two wheels. The handling characteristic of the car has changed. Accepting this, you should be at the wheel. Braking on a corner can lead to disastrous results. This state of preparedness is part of your mental stance.
While going round a corner, if your hands are in the proper 10 O clock position, one hand will push and the other hand will pull. The arm of the pushing hand should be ready to go rigid, with the shoulder blade firmly against the seat back rest. This way the arm gains strength and steadiness. In case extreme pressure is required, the push starts at the shoulder. Similarly, in case of a skid, a tyre blow out, or while coming across a pothole or pedestrian, the steering may kick back. The shoulder blade against the back rest will help absorb the extra force exerted by the steering wheel. In case of a strong kick-back, the force with which the steering wheel responds can snap a wrist.
This is where the grip is essential. One hand must, repeat must, be on the steering at all times. And it must grip the steering wheel firmly. This is ever-so-important on a hill road. Visibility is restricted because of the curves, so reaction time is reduced. To be able to react fast, you must be sitting upright and alert.
Seat belts are a great help in holding the driver in place. They are also a tremendous safety device, making you firmly upright. It makes leg movement easier and you need both legs all the time (not sitting properly will also effect your footwork) on a hill road. The seat belt helps to keep your weight on your seat so that the legs move easily, as well as keeps shoulder blades firmly against the back rest.
The head restraint will be in place with shoulder blades in place. If you put the back rest too far back and it supports only the lower back, not the shoulders, then in case of a whiplash the head restraint is too far back to be of any use.
Sweaty palms are another detriment to safe and hygienic driving. No matter what is the material of the steering wheel, it gets polished to a very high slippery finish. Sweaty palms will lubricate the steering wheel further and may slip from your grasp when you most need a firm grip. Use gloves.
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