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Transportation United States News

You're Driving All Wrong, Says NHTSA 756

antdude writes "This MSNBC Bottom Line story/article says that 'If you're a conscientious motorist who still does everything the way your driver's-ed instructor told you to, you're doing it all wrong. For decades, the standard instruction was that drivers should hold the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 positions, as envisioned on a clock. This, it turns out, is no longer the case. In fact, driving that way could cost you your arms or hands in particularly gruesome ways if your airbag deploys. Instead AAA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and many driving instructors now say you should grip the wheel at 9 and 3 o'clock. A few go even further, suggesting 8 and 4 to avoid the airbag mechanism as much as possible, but what formal research has been published on the varieties of hand positions suggests that this may lessen your control of the car.'" I usually hold even lower on the wheel, perhaps 4:30 and 7:30, but I also drive with my seat pushed farther forward than most people like. Drivers, what's your approach?
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You're Driving All Wrong, Says NHTSA

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  • by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:59PM (#39468747)

    ... like a boss.

  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:59PM (#39468753)

    I let my wife drive. I need my hands to hold my beer.

  • Non-sense! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:00PM (#39468761)

    Didn't mythbusters disprove this finger myth years ago?

    • by stoofa ( 524247 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:08PM (#39468837)
      You don't believe in fingers? I guess that's what happens from watching Myth Busters with a ton of narcotics flowing through your veins. "Hey, I always knew there was no such thing as fingers," you told the giant purple amradillo while waving a blurry hand in front of your own knees.
    • Only as far as the actual airbag explosion goes. It still might make your hand run into things, like the windscreen or the object coming through your windscreen.
  • 8 and 4 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:00PM (#39468763) Homepage Journal

    Is what most professional race drivers have done for decades, for several reasons.

    How many of s stick our elbow out the window and do a 9ish position 1/2 the time?

    • Re: 8 and 4 (Score:5, Funny)

      by maglor_83 ( 856254 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:06PM (#39468817)

      That would be quite uncomfortable in a right-hand drive car, so instead I have a 3ish position.

    • Re: 8 and 4 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by n5vb ( 587569 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:25PM (#39468987)

      8 and 4 is pretty much mandatory in F1 cars because that's the only position that puts your fingers in the right place to hit the clutch and shift paddles properly. On those, there's also usually no wheel between 10 and 2.

      I usually use left hand at about 8 or 9 with elbow on the windowsill, my right at about 5 with elbow on the armrest, or my knee at about 7 if I'm on a long stretch of empty highway. (For the narrow range of steering required at highway speeds, you'd be surprised how much control you have with just a knee.) Manual transmission, usually one hand on wheel at 9-ish and the other on the shift lever. Usually don't need much more torque on the wheel than that.

      But I've got about 500k+ miles under my belt, so i'm a little more casual than some other drivers..

      • by grumling ( 94709 )

        Also, they wear a helmet in case the airbag does go off and fling their arms into their face.

        Belt and suspenders, that's the F1 way.

    • Re: 8 and 4 (Score:5, Informative)

      by headhot ( 137860 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @06:15PM (#39469369) Homepage

      Pro race drivers dont wrap their thumbs around the wheel. Nor do amateur ones like me. Race drivers have the risk of being in a collision that can snap the wheel around breaking your thumbs.

    • Re: 8 and 4 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @07:16PM (#39469855) Journal

      Is what most professional race drivers have done for decades, for several reasons.

      Professional racecar drivers let go of the steering wheel entirely when things go pear shaped,
      otherwise they might break their thumbs or wrists due to a sharp jerk of the steering wheel.
      This is the most recent example I can recall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5K1CpII2yJM&t=77s [youtube.com]

  • How i drive (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:03PM (#39468787)

    I drive coaches, busses and cars...
    I personally hold my hands like this;

    Coach/Bus: Left hand on the money tray, RIght hand at 2
    Car: Left hand on gear stick (yes... in the real world we drive manuals...) and right hand at 2

    Driving with 2 hands on the wheel seems unnatural to me unless i'm flooring it... as I drive really relaxed...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Alworx ( 885008 )

      Left hand on the gear stick? You sit facing backwards?!

      Oh, wait, you said "real world"... where roundabouts rotate clockwise... :-D

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Left hand on the gear stick? You sit facing backwards?!

        Oh, wait, you said "real world"... where roundabouts rotate clockwise... :-D

        English ...you notice he drives a "coach". Here in north America most drive with our left hand at 2 and our right hand either on the iPhone or on the stick between our legs if we have an automatic and the wife isn't next to use to work the stick instead. This is why most that have automatic transmissions also have a box of kleenex in the glove compartment.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:03PM (#39468791)

    Left elbow out the window, steering wheel held by hanging thumb on steering wheel spoke. Right hand either: manipulating some text messaging device, hanging over back of bench seat or trying to slip up the skirt of some babe sitting next to me.

    Front seat passengers should place feet up on the dashboard immediately on top of passenger airbag deployment panel to ensure major foot/leg injuries in the event of deployment.

  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:04PM (#39468795) Homepage Journal

    My clocks have numbers, not hands.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:06PM (#39468813) Journal

    I had my hands at roughly 9 and 3 when it did; all I got from the airbag were some friction burns on my right arm and a good snort of stuff I'd have rather not breathed.

    Trying to specify any particular exact hand position given the variety of people, steering wheels, and driving positions seems pointless.

    And performance driving instructors have been advocating push-pull steering (rather than hand-over-hand) for a very long time. Not because of the airbag, but because it provides better control. Whether it makes a difference on the road or in the mall parking lot I doubt.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:23PM (#39470679)

      And performance driving instructors have been advocating push-pull steering (rather than hand-over-hand) for a very long time. Not because of the airbag, but because it provides better control. Whether it makes a difference on the road or in the mall parking lot I doubt.

      This,

      9/3 is not about airbags, people having a go at airbags in this thread have no clue as to their use, they're meant to stop your head from going into the wheel in the event of an impact, not provide 100% safety.

      Push-pull steering is a much better way to steer. You should never cross your arms when turning. To turn left, your right hand should drop to 4 or 5 and push the wheel up whilst your left hand goes up to 10 so it can pull the wheel down when the right hand reaches 2, your right hand then drops back to 4. Once you get the hang of this, it's very fast to go to full lock (1 and1/2 turns of the wheel).

  • I disable my airbag (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:06PM (#39468815)

    I sit so far back from the wheel that it would not do me any good anyway, and the collision threshold is typically set so low that the airbag actually presents a greater threat than is justifiable. In a low-speed collision where the car does not come to a stop, it might still be necessary to control the vehicle afterwards. If your arms have been blown off the steering wheel and possibly broken/severed by it, that's not possible, and can lead to secondary, even more injurious collisions.

    I know this because I was involved in just such a collision (with a deer) where the airbag caused me to lose control of my vehicle, and my arms were broken so badly I could not turn the wheel to avoid having a second, must worse collision (with a tree), which killed my wife and 4 year old son, and left me paralyzed from the waist down.

    They told me my son was killed instantly, and it took my wife 8 days to pass away in intensive care. I did not wake up from my coma until day 9. That was the worst day of my life.

  • by LifesABeach ( 234436 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:06PM (#39468821)
    Being without arms, and a right leg; I use my nose.
  • by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:07PM (#39468823) Journal

    One hand at 8 or 4 o'clock, one hand around cell phone

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:08PM (#39468833)

    My friend says that everyone would drive a whole lot more safely if there was a huge, sharp metal spike on the steering wheel that was pointed toward the driver's chest. I think he might be right.

  • No hands (Score:4, Funny)

    by mkraft ( 200694 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:11PM (#39468859)

    Drive with your knees. It keeps your hands free for the important things like texting and eating.

  • Don't honk the horn (Score:4, Informative)

    by zapster ( 39411 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:14PM (#39468887)

    My wife was honking the horn as she hit a lady who had for some reason decided to stop while crossing a highway to tend her grandchild, at night, in the rain. Compound fracture of the arm was the result. Out of work for three months. Never honk the horn.

    • by jbwolfe ( 241413 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:43PM (#39469145) Homepage
      Sorry 'bout your wife's injury and I'm not directing this specifically at her as I don't know the circumstances. However, I've often wondered why folks who have enough time and anticipation to blow the horn don't use those mental resources to evade the collision in the first place- speaking strictly in those instances resulting in such. Horns are terribly overused and to me seem useful only in getting the attention of someone able to oblige. I would argue that the great majority of peers on the road are devoting 20% of their available mental resources to the task (driving) at hand, and that they should be allocating more like 80%. I find that drivers in Germany do an exemplary job of this, as well as abiding rules of the road and other drivers. The worst- China followed by America... (though I've not driven in any third world countries).
      • by eht ( 8912 )

        He did indicate it was in the rain, possibly was skidding after applying the brake and honking was the only thing left to do as a warning that she was out of control.

    • This instruction can be generalized: don't lock any of your joints in extension against the car. A huge amount of suffering occurs from locking the leg in extension against the brake pedal. The dashboard will destroy the knee. Actually, locking your joints against any load is never a good idea.
  • by kawabago ( 551139 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:17PM (#39468897)
    My fingers still get crushed when I start moving.
  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:20PM (#39468941)

    For decades, the standard instruction was that drivers should hold the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 positions, as envisioned on a clock.

    What is with you Americans having to use these stupid units for everything? Is it that hard to say pi/6 and 5*pi/6 that everyone can understand?

  • by TheMiddleRoad ( 1153113 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:23PM (#39468967)

    They have their hands at 3 and 9 usually. That has the most control.

    Professional crashers (yes, they exist) put their hands up at the sides of their head.

    For the most control, you should sit close enough to the steering wheel that your shoulders remain against the seat. Sit upright, not leaning back. Make sure your legs are close enough that you can easily flatten the brake pedal to the floor.

    Shorter-armed drivers should be careful, though. Sitting too close to an airbag is bad. 10 inches to the sternum is the minimum safe distance. Most of us drive easily farther away than that.

  • by devnullkac ( 223246 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:23PM (#39468975) Homepage

    I always liked George Carlin's advice:

    They tell you put 'em at ten o'clock and two o'clock. Never mind that. I put mine at 9:45 and 2:17. Gives me an extra half hour to get where I'm goin'.

  • by digsbo ( 1292334 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:25PM (#39468989)
    Our driver's ed instructor about 20 years said 9 and 3, and specifically said NOT to follow the 10 and 2 advice. Good on him.
  • Mainly a US problem? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by uncle slacky ( 1125953 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:26PM (#39468995)
    I suspect that this is a bigger problem in the US than elsewhere, as their airbags have to be so much more powerful than (for example) European ones as the manufacturers can't assume that you're wearing a seatbelt (a legal requirement in most of the civilised world).
  • by pmontra ( 738736 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:52PM (#39469227) Homepage

    Italy 1987, getting the driving license: my instructor told me to drive with hands at 9-3 and position the seat so that I can touch the top of the wheel with my wrist.
    Italy 2004, a one day safe drive course: my driving instructor told me to drive with hands at 9-3.

    The rationale of 9-3 has nothing to do with airbags. It is that you can steer the wheel more and faster than if you start at 10-2 (basic physics). The rationale of being close to the wheel is that with flexed harms you have a stronger grip than if your harms are fully stretched (basic physics again). But if you get too close you can't steer it much anyway, so touching it with the wrist gives a kind of optimal position.

    Customary joke from Europe: maybe the 10-2 position is optimal for racing on ovals ;-)

    • I think 10/2 came from back in the days before power steering where you maybe got a little bit more leverage as you turned the wheel. WIth 9/3 spacing, you get maximum leverage right a way, but then it decreases every degree you turn after, so you have to reposition your hands sooner.

      This is not really important now that every car has power steering, though. And shouldn't be important at speeds over 30mph anyway.

  • by jbwolfe ( 241413 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @06:33PM (#39469527) Homepage
    however, we might first want to get most drivers to put the other hand on the wheel for a start, then worry about where o'clock they put them...
  • Here they disregard not only hand positions. They also disregard turn signals, turn lanes, stop signs, stop lights, speed limits, weather conditions, following distances, and the laws of physics in general.

    For example, last week someone in the right hand lane attempted to make a left-handed U-turn while I was driving past them in the left hand lane. They were on their way to buy cigarettes - had they hit me (as they quite nearly did) I would have spared them dying of lung cancer and bludgeoned them to death in the road.
  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @06:50PM (#39469665)

    We drive 10 to 2 because that's what Drivers Ed taught us. Its your responsibility to make sure the safety systems are designed properly.

    Not our responsibility to adopt unusual or uncomfortable driving positions, because you can't be assed to find good designs for safety systems.

    Air Bags suck, ban them, and mandate something safer.

    Make the common way of driving safe.

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