So What Really Is the Best Hand Position on Your Steering Wheel?

Hand positioning is a major point in driver’s education, but the lessons you may have learned years ago aren’t necessarily relevant with today’s modern vehicles. Air bag positioning and car capabilities have changed over the years, and modern steering wheel techniques have changed with them. If you’re not sure how to best place your hands for safe driving, read on to learn more about how you can stay safe on the road.

Adjusting for Airbags


Image via Flickr by digitonin

The traditional “10 and 2″ hand position is no longer the safest go-to for drivers due to the positioning of air bags in today’s smaller steering columns. Airbags inflate at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour. As the plastic cover pops off the airbag, nitrogen gas flashes super hot, putting drivers at risk for a number of finger, hand, and arm injuries. It’s best to keep your hands out of the way as much as possible if your airbag deploys. A safer alternative position is 9 and 3, with hands directly across from one another on opposite sides of the steering wheel. This will help you keep your hands out of the way of deploying air bags as much as possible without sacrificing safety or control. If you’re a habitual 10 and 2 driver, try shifting your hands down a small amount for safer driving.

Maintaining Car Control

You should always take vehicle control into account when you’re choosing your hand position on the wheel. While you can keep your hands in a single location when you’re driving straight down the highway, you’ll need to move them to make right or left turns, navigate twisting roads, or maneuver into a parking spot. Many drivers turn the wheel with an open palm for speed and efficiency while they’re driving. However, this technique of “palming the wheel,” gives you very little control. If you hit a rough patch in the road, the car can pull the wheel out of your hand. It’s better to maintain a firm grip on the wheel. For slower turns, the safest strategy is to shuffle the wheel, keeping your hands close to the 10 and 3 position. For sharper turns, you’ll retain the most control by moving hand over hand, always keeping one hand gripped on the wheel.

Getting the Best Grip

As you’re holding the steering wheel, you should keep your thumbs pointed upward and fingers curled around the wheel. Grip the wheel from the outside rather than the inside. If you do tend to hold the wheel from the inside, make sure to change your hand position before turning so you have better control of the vehicle. Keep your grip firm, but don’t squeeze the wheel to a point that’s uncomfortable. If you need to adjust your steering wheel habits, make a conscious effort to do so during your daily commute. The habits that you form in everyday driving will be your go-tos in dangerous situations when you’re reacting instinctually to the problem at hand. Forming smart habits now can make a major difference when you’re facing trouble on the road.