Distracted driving is a problem that affects thousands of families each year. With more than…
Before the widespread availability of power steering and frontal air bags, many people were taught to drive by holding their hands on the top section of the steering wheel. By visualizing the steering wheel as a clock, it’s easy to see why this common grip type came to be known as the 10 and 2 o’clock position. The 10 and 2 position was preferred by drivers because, without power steering, it was easier to begin a turn by pulling down on the steering wheel from above.
Yet with the passage of time, many advancements to steering and safety technology have gradually led to a change in optimal hand positioning when steering a vehicle. As the NHTSA explains, “The size, type of input needed, responsiveness of steering in regards to directional change, changes in steering ratios, and effort needed to turn the wheel have all changed.”
In response, the recommendations for steering wheel hand positioning have also been revised, and not only is the 10 and 2 position now considered outdated, but experts claim it poses serious safety risks for modern drivers. Instead, they recommend that drivers lower their grips to the safer position of 9 and 3 o’clock:
But why is the 9 and 3 position considered to be safer? The first reason is vehicle control. The Texas Department of Public Safety claims that the leading cause of fatalities among young drivers today is “excessive steering wheel movement”, which leads to a loss of vehicle control, or swerving. And according to the NHTSA, “efficient steering involves balancing the steering wheel to avoid sudden movements”. The 9 and 3 position is preferable to the 10 and 2 position because its centralized, parallel placement of the hands offers more stability and control over the steering wheel, and thus more control over the vehicle.
But steering isn’t the only reason why using a 9 and 3 grip is safer for drivers. It was only in the 1990s that frontal airbags – mounted in the steering wheel – became a standard safety feature in vehicles. While airbags undoubtedly save lives, the NHTSA cautions that they possess their own safety risks if the driver isn’t careful: “Because air bags deploy very rapidly, serious or sometimes fatal injuries can occur if the driver or passenger is too close to – or comes in direct contact with – the air bag when it first begins to deploy.”
Because airbags open from the top, having a 10 and 2 grip on the steering wheel can increase the risk of your hands coming into contact with the airbag as it deploys, possibly leading to injuries that include broken or lost fingers.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) also cautions that if a driver is gripping the steering wheel higher up when the airbag deploys, then they run the risk of their hands being rapidly pushed into their face, possibly leading to head injury. Because the 9 and 3 grip is lower on the steering wheel, it is more likely that your hands will instead be pushed outwards when the airbag deploys, thus preventing driver injury.
In conclusion, driving more safely can be as easy as re-thinking your old habits and getting a (new) grip.
Image 1 – https://bc.ctvnews.ca/steering-at-10-and-2-dangerous-say-experts-1.807128
Image 2- https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/steeringtechniques.pdf
Image 3 – http://www.geocities.ws/insideaice/extra/swerve.html
Image 4 – https://www.autoevolution.com/news/17th-death-tied-to-ruptured-takata-airbag-inflator-119183.html