Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Where is the right place to put your hands on the wheel?

No longer generally acceptable to hold the steering wheel with your hands in the 10 and two position

By Tim Schewe

There were some students in my Elder College class last week that were surprised to learn that it was no longer generally acceptable to hold the steering wheel with your hands in the 10 and two position. Who would have thought that how to hold your vehicle’s steering wheel would change, or that it even mattered?

After sharing this idea with the class, the first question was “Why don’t they tell us about this?” I countered with a question of my own, “When was the last time you read the owner’s manual for your vehicle?”

The best theory today is for the left hand to be between seven and nine, and the right hand to be between three and five. This keeps your hands and arms out of the way if the airbag deploys and you don’t end up having a fist fight with yourself in the event of a collision. Please note that these instructions call for both hands to be on the wheel.

There are three acceptable practices for holding your steering wheel, depending on the driving situation.

The traditional hand over hand method has died a quiet death except at low speeds in parking lots and at intersections.

Otherwise, the preferred method to use is now called either push-pull or shuffle steering depending on who you talk to. The steering wheel is pushed with one hand and then pulled with the other, effectively shuffling the wheel between hands. Neither hand ever passes the 12 or 6 position and the wheel is not allowed to slide through both hands at once as it centres after a turn.

One handed steering is acceptable in two circumstances, when operating vehicle controls and while backing up.

Hold the steering wheel in the correct position for shuffle steering with one hand and operate vehicle controls such as the shifter, signal lights or wipers with the other. This should be accomplished when no steering input is required.

Put one hand at the top of the steering wheel when backing up. The direction that you move the steering wheel is also the direction that the back end of your vehicle moves.

A check with an ICBC driver examiner reveals that should you palm the wheel, use only one hand to steer (except when backing up) or grasp the steering wheel from inside the rim it will be marked as an error on a driving test.

Changing from hand over hand to shuffle steering may take some practice, but it delivers two benefits: you will be less likely to over correct in an emergency and you will suffer less fatigue in your arms and back, arriving at your destination in a safer more comfortable manner.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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