How you hold the steering wheel can be the difference between a safe and accident-free drive, or a dangerous one. Many drivers don’t realize how important it is to grip the wheel properly, which can lead to serious accidents. In this post, we’ll guide you on how to hold the wheel properly so that you can stay safe on the road.
Because every vehicle is different, it is important to first and foremost refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for guidance on using your car’s steering wheel.
Ensure that your steering wheel is positioned properly
The first step is to make sure that the steering wheel is positioned properly for your height and body type. You should first adjust the seat so you are able to reach the pedals easily and see over the top of the dashboard. Adjust the side and rear view mirrors so you can clearly see objects behind and to the side of the vehicle.
Next, focus on adjusting the wheel so it is positioned where your wrists and hands are comfortable. Most cars have a lever on the side of the steering wheel that allows you to adjust the height of the steering wheel up or down. Your arms should be mostly horizontal with the ground but comfortably bent at the elbows.
How to properly grip the steering wheel
Once you’ve positioned the steering wheel properly, it’s time to grip it with both hands. When operating a vehicle, it is important to maintain a proper grip on the steering wheel at all times. There are a few different ways to grip the wheel, but the most common and effective method is to place your hands at a 9 and 3 o’clock position. The 9-3 o’clock position gives you the most control and allows you to react quickly in case of an emergency.
The only other somewhat accepted hand position is placing your hands at a 10 and 2 o’clock position. However, NHTSA recommends the 9 and 3 o’clock position over the 10 and 2 o’clock position as it can interfere with the use of your vehicle’s airbag and it is not an ideal position for cars with smaller steering wheels.
Keep your hands and arms relaxed
You should also keep your arms straight and relaxed, as this will give you more control over the car. You obviously do not want to hold the steering wheel too loosely as you may lose control of the car while driving. However you also do not want to grip it too tightly where your hands start to fatigue or the movements of the car become jerky and unpredictable.
If you find yourself gripping the wheel too tightly, take a few deep breaths and try to relax your hands. Remember, the goal is to maintain a firm grip without putting unnecessary strain on your muscles.
A good rule of thumb is to pretend that you are gripping an egg. You want to hold it firmly so it does not slip out of your hands, but not too tightly that you crush it.
Steering wheel mistakes to
Now that you know how to properly grip the steering wheel, let’s go over a few common mistakes that you should avoid.
Leaving your hand on the gear shift
If you drive a manual transmission vehicle, or you need to change gears while driving (such as when downshifting) it is important return your hand back to the steering wheel once you have completed the shifting change and as soon as it is safe to do so.
Rest your elbows on the windowsill
A common mistake drivers make is resting their elbows on the windowsill while driving. This may seem like a comfortable position, but it can actually be extremely dangerous. If you need to brake suddenly or make a quick turn, your arms will not be in a position to properly control the car. In addition, if you are in an accident, your elbows could be seriously injured by the impact.
Keeping your eyes on the steering wheel
As your driving instructor may tell you “the steering wheel isn’t going anywhere – keep your eyes on the road”. Focusing your attention on the steering wheel instead of the road in front of you is a recipe for disaster. In order to avoid this, make sure to keep your eyes up and scan the road ahead every few seconds. This will help you spot potential hazards and react quickly if necessary.
If you want to focus on your steering wheel, be sure to only do so when the car is in a parked position.
Driving with one hand
You may have seen people driving with one hand on the steering wheel, but this is actually a very dangerous practice. Your ability to maneuver your car is significantly reduced when steering with only one hand, which is a serious problem when an unexpected obstacle appears in the road.
Reaching for things while driving
It is important to avoid taking your hands off the wheel while driving, even if it is just for a few seconds. If you need to reach for something, pull over to a safe location first.
Turning the wheel with your palms under the steering wheel
When making a left or right turn, you may be tempted to turn the vehicle by placing your palm underneath the top of the steering wheel. Many people find this method physically easier to complete instead of using two hands with palms over the steering wheel instead of under. This is a problem for two reasons:
- You are completing the turn with only one hand.
- You do not have much control to steer the vehicle away from the direction of the turn in the event of an unexpected obstacle
Instead, you should use the hand-to-hand steering technique or the hand-over-hand technique when making turns.
How to adjust your grip for different driving conditions
There are several unique situations where you may need to use different steering wheel gripping and holding techniques from what is outlined above. Remember that these techniques are used in specific situations and should be used sparingly.
When reversing a vehicle, it is nearly impossible to maintain two hands on the wheel while looking over your shoulder. To properly reverse a car, you need to use the “palming” technique. In this method, you place your left hand firmly on the top of the steering wheel at the 12 o’clock position while looking over your right shoulder. As you steer the car, your hand remains in the same original spot on the wheel. When you need to make more than a quarter turn, push hard with your palm and point your fingers up. Keep continuous hard pressure on the wheel using the palm of your hand.
Why it’s important to grip the wheel properly
It is important to grip the steering wheel properly for a number of reasons. First, it will give you more control over the car. Second, it will help you avoid common mistakes that can lead to accidents. And finally, it will help you stay safe on the road.
So, the next time you get behind the wheel, be sure to keep these tips in mind. And remember, the best way to avoid an accident is to always drive safely.
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