Image by Tina Tiller, who prefers a comfortable recline.
Image by Tina Tiller, who prefers a comfortable recline.

SocietyJuly 11, 2024

Hear me out: You should drive sitting bolt upright

Image by Tina Tiller, who prefers a comfortable recline.
Image by Tina Tiller, who prefers a comfortable recline.

It’s the driving position of dorks, squares, and goodie-two-shoes, and you should adopt it.

In my family of three – boyfriend, toddler and I – we share two cars. One is a 2004 Toyota Ipsum, AKA the family wagon, containing a toddler’s chunky rear-facing car seat and enough room in the boot for strollers, bikes and toys. The other is a zippy little Honda, an A-to-B car that’s mean on gas and perfect for the solo operator that day. My boyfriend and I switch regularly between the two, depending on who has charge of our daughter.

What this means is that I am constantly entering a car to find it has been totally readjusted for another person’s comfort. I perch for a minute in a driver’s seat set too far back for my stumpy little legs to reach the pedals, seeing only an expanse of grey ceiling in the rearview mirror. These adjustments I cannot begrudge my boyfriend, for he is tall and needs to drive safely. But begrudge him I can and do the following: the driver’s seat is reclined to a leisurely 45 degree angle, which I need to crank up, every time, to my preferred position, an erect 90 degrees. 

This is always a confronting moment for me, because it marks me as a dork; a square; a goodie-two-shoes. I briefly contemplate leaving the seat in its laid-back, devil-may-care slant, as though I were Puff Daddy in a maroon convertible circa 1997. Then I lose my nerve, crank the seat bolt upright like a nana en route to church, and face the fact that, in this respect at least, I am hopelessly, painfully uncool. 

A cool but thoroughly impractical way to drive.

But the more I think about it, the more I realise mine is the correct posture, in every sense, for the roads. My boyfriend, and everyone in between, is wrong. 

The rapper lean – the one my boyfriend favours – is ultimately ridiculous. Cool as it might be to drive as though you’re sitting in a dentist’s chair, it’s not safe, even if you’re tall, because you can’t see over the steering wheel. Most people have to hunch forward to even reach it. Look, for example, at Snoop Dogg below, another fan of the deep recline. Standing at an impressive 6’3, even he needs to crane forward to rest his hands comfortably on the wheel:

Deep recline = leaning forward to reach the steering wheel. Silly!

OK, I hear you saying, I agree no one should drive with their seat reclined like a 90s rap king. But why sit at a totally neurotic perpendicular angle? What’s wrong with the comfortable 10 degree recline recommended as ergonomically ideal by esteemed medical publications like WikiHow

Listen: the 10 degree recline is a coward’s bargain. SIT UP STRAIGHT. You’re on the roads, where it’s more important to be alert than comfortable. Sitting at a perfectly erect 90 degrees, as though you were a Tibetan monk beginning his morning meditation, is the ideal posture for focused driving. Give your vital organs room to breathe; let the blood flow freely through your body; and face any potential hazards head-on. 

Is this advice based on any medical or scientific evidence? No. But I’m not appealing to the medical establishment here. I’m appealing to fundamental truths about human nature. 

The most useful quality to cultivate on the roads, aside from focus, is humility. Think of all the worst drivers you know: what they have in common is either distraction or entitlement. The woman sitting at traffic lights that turned green four seconds ago, mouth agape as she scrolls through her texts? Distracted. The guy riding up your arse on the motorway, spittle flying and neck vein bulging, furious that you cut into “his” lane? Entitled. The rubberneckers? Distracted. The people who hoon up a lane that’s ending in 200m then push back into the queue? Entitled. 

This is the key reason you should sit bolt upright, like a huge dork, in the driver’s seat: it’s one of the best ways to cultivate humility on the roads. It’s a constant reminder that you are not a 90s rap king. You are of the ilk of the grandmothers, monks, teacher’s pets, and cartoon posture guides. You are not cool, but you are safe and focused, and that is better. 

It is. The more people who deeply internalise this, the more likely it is that driving bolt upright becomes the norm, and I won’t have to undergo the minor inconvenience – and major character assassination – of adjusting my seat each day.

Thank you. *Insert cardinal two-finger wave of gratitude*

Keep going!