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Where should you put your hands on the steering wheel?

Aug. 3, 2009

If you answered this question "10 and 2", you clearly haven't taken driver's ed in a while.

Over the past several years, the advice about the best place to put your hands on the steering wheel has changed. Instead of gripping the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 o'clock positions, beginning drivers are now taught to place their hands at 9 and 3 or 8 and 4.

Why the change? According to Tony Phillips, owner of KC's Driving School in Hartland, one of the reasons we were all taught 10 and 2 in the first place was that back in the day, cars didn't have power steering. Gripping the top of the steering wheel provided more leverage to turn it; that grip is no longer necessary now that power steering is standard in most vehicles.

In addition, Phillips said, researchers have found that drivers who hold their hands at 10 and 2 suffer more shoulder injuries in car accidents. Because the top of a steering wheel is tilted toward the windshield, if you hold the wheel at 10 and 2, your arms are held fairly straight out in front of you and your elbows will typically lock in a bracing-for-impact situation. However, holding the wheel in a lower position means that your elbows are bent and therefore won't lock.

Holding the wheel in a lower position can also keep your hands and arms out of the way of the airbag if it is deployed in an accident.

What do you want to know? E-mail your questions to iwanttoknow@wi.

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