Safe Steering Techniques: 3 Efficient Steering Wheel Hand Positions

Steering is a skill you probably learned in driver’s education and became second nature to you within a few months of driving. You probably do not even think about your hand position or how you use your hands while steering. However, your steering technique can affect your driving. It can also influence the injuries you sustain in a crash.

Hand Positions

The decade you learned to drive will often influence how you grip the steering wheel. 

Before airbags became mandatory in all new vehicles, driving students were taught to firmly grip the wheel with their hands at ten o’clock and two o’clock. That position allowed the driver to maintain control over a vehicle that may or may not have power steering.

Since the late 1990s, however, driving students learn different hand positions. Power steering is now standard. 

Within a few years, auto manufacturers will transition to steer-by-wire. This technology converts the steering wheel from a mechanical device into an electronic controller. Power steering and steer-by-wire require very little force or motion compared to non-power steering.

As a result, driving instructors tell students to place their hands at nine and three o’clock. This position gives the driver more control over modern steering mechanisms, particularly when combined with another change.

Frontal airbags are mandatory equipment in all new vehicles. When you place your hands at ten and two with your thumbs wrapped around the steering wheel rim, an inflating airbag can trap your hands. The force of the airbag can fracture your thumbs or tear their ligaments.

Moving the hands to nine and three allows you to grip the wheel without wrapping your thumbs around the steering wheel rim. When your airbag inflates, it will push your arms off the steering wheel without breaking your thumbs.

Three Steering Techniques and When to Use Them

The NHTSA recommends that drivers know three steering techniques and use them for different purposes. 

Hand-to-Hand Steering

You use hand-to-hand steering for cornering at normal speed. You can also use it to make small maneuvers at high speeds, like changing lanes on an interstate highway.

In hand-to-hand steering, you keep your hands on opposite sides of the steering wheel. You push the steering wheel in the direction of the turn with the opposite hand. Thus, you push the steering wheel counterclockwise with your right hand when making a left turn.

This maneuver alternates with a similar maneuver with your other hand. You pull the steering wheel in the direction of the turn with the hand on the side you are turning to. When turning left, you pull the steering wheel counterclockwise with your left hand.

You alternate these motions, repositioning your hand and repeating the pushing and pulling until you complete the turn. Essentially, you pass the steering wheel from one hand to the other by pushing up with one hand and pulling down with the other.

Hand-Over-Hand Steering

This technique works best when making sharp turns at low speeds. For example, when you maneuver in parking lots, you may use hand-over-hand steering.

Hand-over-hand steering works the same as hand-to-hand steering. You alternate pushing the steering wheel with one hand and pulling it with the other hand. But as the name suggests, this technique happens at the top of the steering wheel and crosses your hands as you perform it. 

Specifically, as you push the steering wheel with one hand, you reach over that hand to grasp the steering wheel with the other hand. The other hand then pulls the steering wheel as you reposition the first hand for another push.

You can also use this technique when recovering from a skid. In that case, you will use the hand-over-hand technique to turn the wheels in the direction of the skid. By reorienting the wheels, you can regain control of the vehicle.

One-Handed Steering

The NHTSA does not recommend using one-handed steering under most driving conditions. But occasionally, the position of your body does not allow two-handed steering. For example, when you turn your body to look out the rear window while reversing, you need to take one hand off the wheel to fully turn.

When you do this, you can use the other hand to steer the vehicle by positioning the hand at the top of the wheel and making small adjustments.

Steering Safely

Your ability to control your vehicle safely and effectively depends on knowing when to use these steering techniques. More importantly, you must know when not to use them. For instance, one-handed steering can slow down your ability to maneuver. 

Using these steering techniques correctly will help reduce your risk of crashing and suffering thumb and hand injuries.

Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including cartruck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side. If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!