Here’s the Proper Way to Hold A Steering Wheel

Here's the proper way to hold a steering wheel


By Ian Law

Too many drivers hold the steering wheel with one hand, or a wrist, or, worse, with one finger. Here's the safest way to position your hands.

How many times have we heard about a driver losing control before a serious collision? A common reason for loss of control is the driver not accessing the controls properly, specifically the steering wheel.

Too many motorists hold the steering wheel with one hand while using the other for a cellphone or some other device that has nothing to do with driving. The one-handed driver will hold the wheel with either the right or left hand and usually anywhere on the wheel. The one-handed driver is not in control of their vehicle and most likely will crash in an emergency.

Some drivers like to hold onto the gearshift lever with one hand and the steering wheel with the other. There is no need to hold onto shifter as it will be right where you left it when you go to shift gears. Dr. Freud may have something to say about this habit.

There is also the “wrist” driver. These motorists can be seen zipping along with one hand draped over the top of the steering wheel. Usually the other hand is employed holding on to the side-view mirror or roof. If anyone cuts them off or a child runs out in front of them from between parked cars, there is no way they will be ready to react. Precious time is lost as they try to regain control of the wheel. The sooner you can begin to correct a spin, the better the chances of success.

I have seen drivers who like to hold the steering wheel by the centre hub like a cyclist. Some motorists will do this with one finger. This is the laziest form of steering. It may look cool and it may be comfortable, but it is a sure way to end up in the ditch when an emergency arises.

The other common mistake motorists commit is holding the steering with two hands but both near the twelve o’clock position. They may have two hands on the steering wheel, but when both hands are doing the exact same work, they will overreact.

The results are no better than having one hand on the wheel. If both hands are moving in the same direction they have no resistance to help with precision. In other words, if your hands are far apart and one is pulling down and the other is pushing up, they can work against each other for more precise inputs. Also, should your airbag deploy while your hands are close together in the twelve o’clock position, it will force your hands and arms back toward your face at high velocity. This can cause severe injuries.

It is a fact that the farther apart your hands are the better control you will have. To place your hands as far apart as possible on your steering wheel put them in the three and nine position.

For decades, instructors have been teaching us to hold the steering at the “ten and two” position. There are some driving schools that still teach the old method of “ten and two”. This hand position is OK but it is not as effective as holding the wheel at three and nine.

With your hands in the three and nine position, a multitude of clever things begins to happen. Your hands are as far apart as possible so your steering inputs will be smoother and more precise. You will also notice that you can now access all your secondary controls such as windshield wipers, turn signals etc. all without removing your hands from the steering wheel. With some vehicles you can also move your thumbs onto the horn button in dense traffic and access the horn without removing your hands from the wheel.

In the three and nine position, you can also turn the steering wheel close to 180 degrees to the left and to the right without removing your hands from the wheel. You cannot get this degree of rotation if you are holding the wheel at ten and two or any other combination.

Another benefit to holding the wheel at three and nine is it moves your hands slightly lower and this will reduce fatigue. The higher your hands are on the wheel, the harder your heart has to work to pump your blood uphill to your hands. If your vehicle comes equipped with an adjustable steering wheel, set the height of the wheel so your hands are slightly below your heart when you are holding the wheel at three and nine. Be sure you do not set it so low as to interfere with your legs or your vision of the instruments.

Take a close look at your steering wheel and you will probably find two contoured indentations at the nine and three position that look like your thumbs should reside there. The manufacturers are trying to tell you something. They have designed your steering wheel to accommodate your hands in the optimum control position, three and nine.

If you adapt the three and nine position, you will have better control of your vehicle. Now that your hands are in the position to give you optimal control over your vehicle, relax your grip on the wheel. You do not need to hold the steering wheel with a “death grip”. There is no need to be a “white knuckle” driver. You will have better control with an easy relaxed grip and you will also reduce fatigue.

It may feel uncomfortable at first, but that is only because your current method of holding the wheel has developed into a bad habit, which has become comfortable to you. Make this new position your habit and soon it will be the only way you drive. When the worst happens, you will be ready and in control.

Copyright: Ian Law. Reproduced with permission