We got this query about a piece of common driving advice via email in April 2015:
This is the latest news from driving professionals for people who drive modern cars with air bags.
10 and 2 o’clock Hand Positions on the Wheel is wrong.
The air bags explode with such tremendous force that they ram our hands and arms into our faces if we follow the old Driver’s Ed rules of keeping our hands at higher positions on the car’s steering wheel. The exploding bags bust up our faces by turning our hands, wrists & forearms into missles that slam into our eyes and break our noses and cheeks.
New drivers are often instructed to place their hands at “10 and 2 o’clock” positions on the steering wheel in order to obtain maximum control of their vehicles. Although this technique was once considered ideal for driving safety, it was based on an earlier state of automative technology and is no longer a recommended practice.
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the “10 and 2” steering position was frequently suggested to drivers in order to compensate for vehicles without power steering, as that hand position provided drivers with more leverage and made it easier for them to turn the wheels. But since power steering is now a standard feature of modern cars, this advice is outmoded; motorists are now advised to position their hands somewhat lower on the steering wheel:
For years, drivers have been taught to place their hands on the wheel at the positions of 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. That used to be appropriate because early cars did not have power steering and it was easier to start a turn by pulling down from a higher hand position. But the widespread availability of power steering changed that thinking. The new recommended positions are 8 o’clock and 4 o’clock. Or slightly higher at 9 and 3.
In fact, both AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advise that the old-fashioned driving technique is not only no longer optimal, but also may be a safety risk for drivers due to the use of smaller steering wheels in conjunction with widespread adoption of airbags as a safety feature:
The steering wheel and associated mechanisms have changed dramatically over the years.
The size, type of input needed, responsiveness of steering in regarding to directional change, changesin steering ratios and effort
needed to turn the wheel have all changed.
Thus, recommendations relative to hand position on the steering wheel have become more flexible due to these changes.
Two and 10 o’clock is not recommended because it can be dangerous in vehicles with smaller steering wheels and equipped with air bags