samotor Magazine

4 driving mistakes to avoid

Did you know RAA runs a free program that helps motorists find their ideal driving position?

We look at everything from the height of your head restraint to how the seatbelt fits, giving you tailored advice on how to get a comfier and safer drive.

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Worryingly, of the hundreds of people who have attended an RAA CarFit session, 85% were making a mistake before they’d even turned the engine on.

The most common error? Not positioning their side mirrors correctly, increasing the chance of a crash when changing lanes.

Take a look at our tips on this and other common faults below – chances are you’ll be making at least one of these mistakes.

If you want one-on-one, personalised advice on how to set up your car correctly, you can attend one of our CarFit sessions – they’re completely free.

1. Positioning your side mirrors too far in

About 44% of people who’ve attend a CarFit session had their side mirrors in the wrong position.

Most people are guilty of tilting their mirrors too far inwards so they can see a huge chunk of the side of their car.

The problem with this is it creates a massive blind spot. There’s no need to see the flank of your vehicle – the important stuff (like approaching traffic) is happening on the road around you.

Move your mirrors outwards and you’ll be surprised that your blind spots almost disappear altogether.

To do this, just look out the driver’s side window and move your mirror out so you only see a small bit of the back doorhandle in the bottom, left-hand corner of the mirror.

Then look out the passenger’s side window and do the same, so you can only see a small bit of the back doorhandle in the bottom right.

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To test if you’ve got them in the correct positon, get someone to walk down the side of your car while you’re sitting in the driver’s seat. You should be able to see them for most (if not all) of the way.

In other words, watch them come towards you (just like a passing car) in your side mirror.

You’ll lose sight of them around the door pillar (this is the frame between the front and back door) but at this point you should be able to turn and see them in your peripheral vision.

Then repeat on the other side. If you can’t see them most of the way around, then reposition your mirrors until you can.

With that simple change, you’ve cut your chance of being involved in a side-swipe and don’t have to crane your neck quite so much.

2. Sitting too close to your steering wheel

Are you sitting so close to the steering wheel that your nose might as well be touching the windscreen? Okay… you might not be that far forward, but you could be sitting dangerously close.

While airbags save thousands of lives each year, they can cause harm if you’re not in the right position when they deploy.

For safety, there should be at least 25cm between your chest and the wheel. Your arms should also be in a relaxed, slightly bent position.

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Aside from the airbag factor, this also helps you maintain good control over the steering and avoid fatigue.

For those of us who are height challenged, you’re probably thinking ‘but if I move my seat back, I won’t be able to reach the pedals’.

In most cars, you can also adjust the position of the steering wheel, which should help. Some, in fact, not only move up and down but in and out as well.

If you’re having trouble with this, organise to see our CarFit experts for personalised advice.

3. Forgetting about the head restraint

Despite their common name, these devices aren’t there for comfort, or to serve as a pillow for passengers who want to doze off on a long journey. They’re actually a critical safety device.

If you’re involved in a crash, they should stop your head and neck from being violently forced backwards giving you whiplash. To do this though, they need to be set up correctly.

4 Driving Mistakes head restraint

Adjust the head restraint so that it lines up with the middle of your head. Basically, don’t have it sitting too low.

Some head restraints also allow you to change the angle to suit your posture.

After mirrors, head restraints were the biggest problem area for motorists, with about 31% not adjusting them correctly.

So, next time you jump in the car, take a look how you’ve got this seemingly basic feature set up.

4. Wearing your seatbelt incorrectly

Buckling up drastically reduces your chance of being killed or injured in a crash. But for the seatbelt to do its job, you have to wear it correctly.

Seems pretty straightforward; but, alarmingly, one in four people who have come to a CarFit session, didn’t have this important safety device properly adjusted. 

4 Driving Mistakes seatbelt

So what are the common mistakes?

The first thing to check is that the sash part (that’s the section that goes across your chest) sits on your shoulder and – importantly – doesn’t cut across your neck.

Meanwhile, the lap part should sit firmly across your hips or pelvis, not over your stomach.

However, the biggest factor was that quite a few people (14%) didn’t realise they could change the height of the belt.

Most modern cars have an adjustment feature on the door frame that allows you to move the seatbelt up and down. So take a look next time you hop in your car.


To book a 20-minute spot at one of our CarFit sessions, or find out about upcoming dates, just email our team.


Illustrations by Pip Kruger.

Did you know?

Nearly 85% of drivers aren't sitting in the cars correctly, according to RAA data, meaning they're at risk behind the wheel.

Book in for a CarFit session