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Seating Priorities & Passenger Safety On A Long Journey


Are you getting ready for your summer holiday?  Travelling by car as a staycation in the UK, or maybe travelling further afield into Europe?  We offer some advice from our safety experts at ŠKODA cars which is practical and sensible whichever car you drive.

​Proper Seatbelt Position

Correct seatbelt placement is a really important factor in car safety.  The lower part must go over the pelvis and not the abdomen.  The body would be restrained in either position in the event of a crash, however, the impact on the body's internal organs would be very different.  The upper part of the seat belt should ideally pass across the centre of the chest and then through the centre of the shoulder, not too close to the neck.

Be careful too of phones, pens, keys and necklaces.  Seat belts should not go over them as these items could cause injury if pushed into the body in the event of a crash.

Pregnant women should be careful where the lower part of the seatbelt passes - the pelvis rule is twice as important, as placing it across the abdomen also puts the foetus at risk.  Special accessories are available such as a thin cushion with a strap that clips on to the seat belt.  When sitting on the cushion the strap pulls the seatbelt down below the abdomen.​

Using seat belts in the back seats is crucial.  In the event of a crash, an unrestrained body flies forwards and not only injures itself, but the head and upper spine of anyone sitting in front of it.  The seatbelts are checked during an MOT inspection.  Remember to get your car MOT'd if it's 3 years or older, or ask us to check with a vehicle health check if younger.  Book online now!

Correct seatbelt placement
safety for pregnant women wearing seatbelts in a car

Seating Order

It is sensible to plan who should sit in the second row of seats in your car.  The ŠKODA road safety research team recommend that you seat the car occupants in a way that aids evacuation of the car quickly in the event of an accident or emergency.  So, the doors on the pavement side of the car should be your preferred safest exit.  A baby in an infant seat with its parent seated next to it should have the parent sat behind the front passenger seat so that they can quickly unbuckle the baby or the whole seat and escape to the pavement or verge.  The other way round would mean escaping to the road and walking round the car or climbing over the child seat inside.

If you have children of different ages in the car, the oldest, who may already be able to react in a crisis and unbuckle other passengers' seat belts for example, should sit on the left.  In a 7 seater car, the left hand seat in the second row should be occupied by someone who can get out on their own in an emergency and fold down the backrest for the occupants of the third row.  Never block the way out with an Isofix seat for example.​  

Kids' Seating​

The safety experts at ŠKODA recommend keeping a child in a full seat for as long as possible until they grow out of it, maybe at 8 or 10 years old, depending on the height of the child.  The seat cushion without the back rest part cannot protect the head and neck from a side impact.  Top rally driver, Jan Kopecky, says "Even I have a seat in my race car that protects my whole head" in his attempt to encourage children to delay the switch to a booster seat as long as possible.

Babies should also stay in rear-facing infant seats for as long as they can safely fit in the seat.  Even in the front seat, they should face the rear, in which case don't forget to de-activate the front passenger airbag.*​  Buy child seat and accessories now!

Child safety seating

Correct Seat Position

To achieve the correct body position in the driver's seat, you need to be able to reach all the controls - steering wheel and pedals. The backrest should be perpendicular to the seat base, not the floor.

Don't 'lie down' in the seat - you need a good view of the road, to be able to control the car properly and the seat belt needs to restrain you properly.  The seat belt can't hold you in place if there is a gap between your body and the belt, the body may slip underneath (called 'submarining') in the event of an accident and be strangled by the seat belt catching on the neck.

Legs must never be fully extended to the pedals, even with the pedal fully depressed to the floor.  Legs must always remain slightly bent for safety during impact.  The same applies to the steering wheel - don't allow your arms to become locked at the joints.  Hold the steering wheel at the 'quarter to 3' position.  This grip allows a wide range of manoeuvres and for safe activation of the airbag in the event of a collision.  How to measure the correct distance from seat to steering wheel?  With your back and both shoulder blades resting comfortably on the backrest, hold your outstretched arm in front of you, your wrist should rest on the top of the steering wheel rim.  When you grip the steering wheel in the '9 and 3' position, your arms are bent at the elbows.

Headrest Positioning

The ideal position for the headrest (driver and passengers) should be for the top of the headrest to be level with the top of the head.  It should never be lower than the top of the earlobe.  The height of the seat and therefore, headrest, should be such that you can fit your clenched fist between the top of your head and the car ceiling.  This minimises the chance of damage to the upper spine if the car turns over.​

Correct seating position in the drivers seat in a car
correct seat position in a car

Long Journey Comfort

You're all strapped in, everybody's ready - only 400 miles to go - GROAN!!

If you're making a long road trip this summer, then here are a few pointers to help make the journey more comfortable for everyone and to use your power or fuel economically.

  • Pre-conditioning - especially if you have an electric car, get the cabin conditions to optimum temperature while the car is connected to the power supply so that it doesn't rely so much on the battery pack energy - helping to extend the range.
  • Shady pit-stops - When you choose a parking space at a rest stop, find the shade if possible. This prevents the cabin temperature from soaring when you're away. A cooler car will require less energy to get back to the perfect temperature.
  • Reduce weight and drag - roof boxes and bike racks are invaluable when needed for your trip, however, if you don't need them this time, remember to remove them to reduce wind resistance and drag which effect fuel economy. The same applies to unwanted heavy items in the luggage space.
  • Driver assistance and anticipatory driving - use the driver assistance systems your car is fitted with and an anticipatory driving style to help you drive at an even speed. This can really help with fuel efficiency and comfort. Check out our advanced driving blog and book your own advanced driver training!
  • Have your air con serviced - efficient air conditioning not only helps passengers stay at a comfortable temperature but helps hay fever suffers to avoid having to open the windows and let pollen in. Make sure your pollen filter has been changed at the appropriate service too. Efficient cooling and heating systems indirectly help with fuel efficiency. Book an air conditioning refresh or service now!
  • Make regular pit stops - this benefits the driver's concentration and physical well-being and the passengers comfort. Make sure you keep hydrated and stop if you feel tired to rest or swap drivers. Remember to feed and water your pets too.
  • Take a few games that can be played safely in the car, observation games like 'I-Spy' and plenty of tunes to sing along to!
  • Food and drink - have some healthy snacks available and plenty of water in case you get stuck in traffic or delayed.
  • Safe travel with pets - check out our blog about safely travelling with your pets.

We hope these hints and tips have helped you plan your summer road trip more thoughtfully.

We wish you a safe and happy journey wherever you're heading this summer. Drive safely and happy motoring!

If you need any help or advice on your vehicle's systems, or would like to book a 20 minute vehicle health check for peace of mind, please get in touch.

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*See full article here.