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  1. Michael Rutledge says:

    Well covered. I would like to add that many turns are impossible to do legally by holding the wheel at 9 and 3 and crossing your arms to make the turn. Left turns on smaller streets would require you to turn the wheel until your right hand is at 6:00 and your left hand is at 12:00. Talk about an uncomfortable position. Personally, I’m not capable of doing this without moving my entire upper body on an angle. A sharp right turn can require you to move the wheel until your left hand reaches 10:00 again. You would have to be a contortionist to manage this without taking your hands off the wheel.

  2. The classic hand position debate. Only slightly less controversial than debate over how to adjust the mirrors.

    I’ll make an argument for the 9 and 3 positions, realizing that it will probably convince no one. Most people made up their minds about where their hands should be when they first “learned to drive.”

    I agree that we should quickly dismiss the one-hand approach. Many drivers seem to think that they have to keep one hand on the shifter. When you ask them why they say that they drive a standard transmission vehicle. I guess they think that they might have to make an emergency gear change. If that’s the case, they might as well leave their left foot on the clutch.

    Experience has shown me that the farther apart the hands are on the steering wheel, the smoother the steering input. At 10 and 2 the hands are far apart but not quite as far as they would be at 9 and 3. A bigger problem is that often 10 and 2 drivers’ hands tend to migrate to 11 and 1, and sometimes to both hands touching at 12. It is difficult to steer smoothly with your hands that close together.

    I agree that your hands should remain on the wheel as much as possible (you do still have to work the shifter occasionally), but not that both hands need to be gripping the wheel all the time. For shallow turns the hands can stay at 9 and 3 lightly gripping the wheel. If you were to continue to hold the wheel at 9 and 3 through a sharp turn, it would force you to cross your arms. You can easily avoid this problem by changing the hand positions in anticipation of turns. As you approach a relatively sharp turn, slide the hand on the side you are turning toward the 12 o’clock position. Slide the other hand toward the 6 o’clock position. This will allow you to make a significant turn without the necessity of crossing your arms. When you reach the critical part of the turn (the part where your hands would be crossed if you kept them in place) your hands will be at approximately 9 and 3 (in relationship to your body – not the now turned wheel). Now you are in the accustomed and comfortable position. If the turn is even sharper, you can shuffle steer, making sure you hand the wheel from one hand to the other, and ensuring that your right hand is always on the right half of the wheel and your left hand is always on the left half of the wheel. This does take some practice but, once mastered, it is easy.

    To return the wheel as you recover from the turn you can simply pass the wheel back, always gripping with one hand while sliding the other, until back at 9 and 3.

    I would not “let the steering wheel slide back on the recovery.” Not only do you sacrifice positive control, it can results in the car lurching when you do re-grasp the wheel.

    • safedriver says:

      Thanks for your detailed reply. Your suggestions may work in a planned, gradual turn, but in an emergency you don’t have time to re-think your hand placement. You must always be in position to to steer into your escape route.

  3. But you would be in just as good a position to steer into your escape route. On first reading, I assumed that your argument that 10 and 2 would be preferable in an emergency was based on your being able to get a little more turn out of the wheel before your arms crossed, assuming you were going to maintain your grip rather than shuffle steer. I sat in my car, placed some tape at the 12 o’clock position and tried turning the wheel. I could turn the wheel 180 degrees with my hands at 10 and 2 and exactly the same 180 degrees when I kept my hands at 9 and 3. Try it and I think you will find that you have exactly the same range of motion.

    I don’t think that normally pre-positioning your hands for a gradual turn will affect the way you turn in an emergency. Because we brake gradually and progressively for a non-emergency stop does not mean that we brake the same way in an emergency.

    You wouldn’t re-think your hand placement. You would look to your escape route and turn the wheel accordingly.

    Like I said before, I don’t expect to convince anyone to do it my way, but I do appreciate the discussion. Thanks for the opportunity.

  4. Astraist says:

    10 to-2 allows for a bit more leverage without crossing the arms, but overall, the wheel is turned only 180 degrees or so. Even for such a relatively small input, both hands “collapse” into the corner, the wrists twist, the forearms cross, and the whole mess lays entirely on your shoulders. You are thrown completly out of balance, and lose feedback, control and grip.

    In 9 to-3, even when the arms are crossed, once the wheel is turned 190 degrees, you are still stable and you can turn an extra 90 degrees.

    In an emergency, when the wheel needs to be turned quickely, in 10 to-2 people would put in about 100 degrees. In 9 to-3, they will execute 190 degrees, and will be able to use the “bump bump bump” technique for an easy evasive manouver.

    The only “advantage” of 10 to-2 is that it’s more comfortable for the shoulders.

    • safedriver says:

      The advantage with 10 and 2 is that you can steer “forever” if needed with hand over hand steering. It’s smoother and allows for maximum control. With 9 and 3, you’re left with only the 180° turn with usually your thumb holding the wheel. we need to get a grip.

      • Astraist says:

        Out of my experience, trainees in defensive driving and race driving courses never feel anything through the wheel at 10 to-2, and also steer the car much less smoothly.

        With smoothness being the game, a hand-over-hand operation is less prefered, and a method of pulling the wheel, which a custom of rally drivers (like Peter Soleberg himself), allowing for maximal leverage and control.

        • safedriver says:

          Since driving is done through the eyes, your hands will steer enough based on the information your eyes are giving them. if you need more steering input after you’ve turned the wheel the 180°, you’re out of luck. hand over hand steering with your hands at 10 and 2 will allow for a tremendous amount of smooth steering input. Besides, more drivers aren’t driving a rally course. Public roads with tight corners often need more input than 180°. Thanks for your discussion.

          • Astraist says:

            The technique I refer to allow to turn the wheel a full 270 degrees, and the hands are again in 9 to-3. In this position, you can turn the wheel 270 degrees, unlike the 180 degrees you can in 10 to-2.

            Now, I’m not about steering the car with the hands always in 9 to-3. But, when an evasive manouver is needed, 9 to-3 is very rewarding.


  5. “The advantage with 10 and 2 is that you can steer “forever” if needed with hand over hand steering. It’s smoother and allows for maximum control. With 9 and 3, you’re left with only the 180° turn with usually your thumb holding the wheel. we need to get a grip.”

    Regarding the above –

    You assumed that the 10 and 2 driver could turn “forever” because he resorted to hand over hand steering. You must have also assumed that the 9 and 3 driver kept his hands in the original positions. The 10 and 2 and 9 and 3 staring positions are irrelevant if you make those assumptions. I could as easily say that the 9 and 3 driver could steer forever (lock to lock) by shuffle steering, but the 10 and 2 driver could only turn 180 degrees before he couldn’t turn anymore. (That of course assumes that the 10 and 2 driver never changes his grip.)

    “Since driving is done through the eyes, your hands will steer enough based on the information your eyes are giving them. if you need more steering input after you’ve turned the wheel the 180°, you’re out of luck. hand over hand steering with your hands at 10 and 2 will allow for a tremendous amount of smooth steering input. Besides, more drivers aren’t driving a rally course. Public roads with tight corners often need more input than 180°. Thanks for your discussion.”

    Regarding the second quote: Starting with your hands at 9 and 3 and turning the wheel 180 degrees you are out of luck ONLY if you maintain your grip and never move your hands. If you pre-positioned your hands at about 12 and 6 just before inputing steering AND/OR shuffle steer (pass the wheel from hand-to-hand but never let your right hand go to the left of 12 or your left hand to go to the right of 12) you can turn from lock to lock smoothly.

    In a right hand turn, using the hand over hand technique, for at least part of the turn you you are pulling up on the left side of the wheel with the right hand. In another part of the turn you are pushing down on the right side of the wheel with the left hand. I contend that this is more difficult to accomplish smoothly and provides no more control than is available by always maneuvering the right side of the wheel with the right hand and the left side with the left hand.

    • safedriver says:

      It’s not difficult at all when you’ve learned the technique. Thank you all for your discussion. Your opinions are appreciated and respected. It’s nice to know there are more people out there who have the passion to follow through with things.

  6. Trevor Bolger says:

    I know i would not be able to swerve as well if my hands were at 9 and 3, they would be hitting off my leg yes you are suppose to turn with your opposite hand but sometimes you have to turn so fast you need both hands on the wheel, in that case i would not want to limit my motion. Perhaps i have long legs or prefer to be a little closer to the wheel , but for me its 10 and 2 all the way but i could see how some people could do better with 9 and 3. Dare i say it would depend somewhat on height and seat position???

  7. Tim Burrows says:

    Great debate…but I have to side on 9 and 3. The majority of controls on cars now are positioned so that 9/3 positioning activates/moves controls easier from here and for a novice driver, the less thinking about the simple things…
    Secondly, 9/3 does give a greater turning degree without having to re-position your hands. I would never recommend that you turn to the point where your arms fully cross or lock.
    Great argument for both sides of this issue, but in the end which ever you choose, the more alert, aware and observant you are, hopefully you will never need to utilize emergency movements.
    Thanks for the debate Scott.

  8. Lauren says:

    I have to completely disagree with you here. The advantages of 9 and 3 are countless. First off, there is a solution to the cross over– it’s called sliding your lower hand over to your upper hand giving you more range– and its well worth it for the improved control you have on your car.

    Racecar drivers don’t drive at 9 and 3 for no reason, they do so because it is the position that gives you the most control of the car. If you lose control and are in a spin when your hands are at 9 and 3 is is much easier to find straight and get your car back on course.

    As for the airbag, I’d rather not risk it. Even the DMV has changed its mind from 10 and 2 to 3 and 9 in recent years due to airbags.

    • safedriver says:

      Thanks for your comment Lauren. The issue of repositioning your lower hand to the upper hand causes a slight delay in the steering motion, although the vehicle is still moving in continuous motion. Hand over hand allows for continuous motion while the vehicle is also moving continuously. Also, the corners on public roads are unlike a rce track, thus making the turns different. As stated in the article, I drive in a way that allows for control and not in fear of the airbag going off. As you also know from your experience, your eyes determine where you’re going, so your hands are just tools to use; regardless of the techniques you use. Thanks again for your comment.

  9. Drew says:

    safedriver, good article to ensure proper vehicle control when on the road.

    I do have to say though that reading through all your comments, it seems that you have locked in that “10-2 and hand over hand” is the ONLY way to go. I took Young Drivers when I first started and they taught that exact method, it IS indeed good.

    Keep in mind though that there are other JUST AS SAFE and EFFECTIVE methods out there.

    I will give you one example on when driving 10-2, hand over hand will give you a disadvantage.

    While you’re over 180 and hand over hand your arms are crossed; picture on a snow road on a corner and your rear starts to slip (yes we should avoid this in the first place but thats another story altogether), can you do SMALL subtle movements to correct? No you can’t. i’ve done skid control with hand over hand and hand over hand is GREAT – as you said – for large movements (streets needing more than 180 etc.) but how about the small ones when you’re in an emergency? Its very difficult to make tiny corrections when your arms are crossed and you’re over the 180 mark, your body weight is off centre because you had to move towards the wheel a tad.

    In a shuffle scenario, or even in pull steering you can use the other hand to slowly feed the wheel back and forth for some small minute movements or even large ones depending on what you need to do; all the while maintaining control becuase your body mass is still centred in your seat and against the wheel, you’re not off balance. You want to be deliberate but be in control.

    I think the best method in the end is a combination of pull steering (this can get you 270 degrees, and more if you push) as Astraist mentioned and combine this with a form of push pull (shuffle) in order to increase control (I find shuffle by itself a bit slow, hence the addition of pulling to it). Hand over hand is great for large distances but while your arms are crossed after the 180 mark.. you’re vulnerable and lack control for that split second. Yes Pull steering is used in Rally.. but think about this: the UK driving instructors only shuffle, and most police/military/tactical driving also teach shuffle steering.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong I’m just saying its better to have an open mind on it. Try it next time, even with a proper adjusted seat the top of your back lifts up slightly when you hand over hand, not the same with shuffle.

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