Getting In and Out of a Car Safely

Topic Overview

Most people get into a car by stooping to move sideways through the door. They put in one leg, sit down, and then bring in the other leg. But if you have problems with mobility or balance, getting into a car this way might be difficult or unsafe. It's easier and safer to sit down in the car first, and then move your legs into the car after you're seated. And if the ground is slick or icy, this method is safer for everyone.

Getting into the front seat

Instead of stooping sideways to get in, try this technique.

  1. When you get to the open car door, turn around so that you're facing away from the car. Back up slowly until the backs of your legs touch the door frame.
  2. Reach back and hold on to something stable, such as the back of a seat or the dashboard. Don't use the open door or headrest for support. They might move.
  3. Slowly sit down so that you are sideways on the seat, facing out the door. Be careful not to hit your head on the top of the door frame.
  4. As you turn your body to face forward, lift your legs into the car one at a time. Use your hands to help lift your legs if you need to.

To get out of the front seat, do the same steps in reverse.

Getting into the back seat

If you have a knee injury, it might be easier to ride in the back seat. (It depends on the size and type of car.)

If your left knee is injured, it's best to get in on the left side of the car. If your right knee is injured, it's best to get in on the right side of the car. Instead of lifting both legs in and facing forward after you sit, slide back on the seat so that your injured knee is resting across the seat. Try to position yourself so that you can wear a seatbelt comfortably.

To get out of the back seat, do the same process in reverse.

If you're having trouble

If your car seat has fabric upholstery, you might find that it's hard to slide across it. Try covering the seat with something to make it easier to slide on, like a piece of plastic or vinyl. Make sure it doesn't get in the way of your seat belt.

Some people find that it helps to move the front seat forward or backward when they get in and out of the car. You can do this before or after you sit down, depending on your needs.

If you still have trouble, ask your physical therapist or occupational therapist to show you the best way to get in and out of a car. He or she can also tell you about tools that can help you get in and out more easily.


Current as of: March 2, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Joan Rigg PT, OCS - Physical Therapy