9 and 3 or 8 and 4
December 7, 2018 9:52 AM   Subscribe

"For decades, the standard instruction was that drivers should hold the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 positions, as envisioned on a clock. This, it turns out, is no longer the case. In fact, driving that way could cost you your arms or hands in particularly gruesome ways if your airbag deploys." Get with the times: You’re driving all wrong (NBC news)

Later on: "You're also turning wrong. That ship captain's-style 'hand over hand' thing is now out."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (73 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
(I recently had to go into the DMV for an eye exam and I decided to refresh myself on the CA Driver's handbook, was amazed to find these new recommendations for steering and driving position, as I learned to drive in the mid-80s.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:54 AM on December 7 [2 favorites]


If you're regularly driving fast enough to be worried about the risk to your hands from the airbag, it's time to change jobs, homes or both.
posted by ocschwar at 9:57 AM on December 7 [5 favorites]


Does anyone religiously keep their hands in any particular position while driving? I mean, even as a passenger you should technically also never cross your legs, look back to the back seats, put put your arm over the seat back next to you, slouch, or do anything but sit up straight looking forward with your arms on the arm rests. My dad works in an ER, and he can tell how an accident victim was sitting when the crash happened based on what kinds of fractures they have. But who lives their life that way?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:57 AM on December 7 [19 favorites]


It's not a question of how fast you're going, it's a question of how fast the airbag goes when it literally explodes in your face. You only have to be doing 30mph or so. It's the force of the airbag itself that can fuck you up if you're not sitting in the way it was designed for.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:59 AM on December 7 [39 favorites]


I learned to drive in the 70's, and although the "10 and 2" thing was constantly hammered into us I was never comfortable with it and it never felt like I had maximum control of the wheel. I gravitated to a "9 and 3" position early on and...well, I was about to say "never looked back" but that wouldn't be safe driving practice. I'll just say I never regretted it.

Same goes with hand-over-hand, even in older cars, but especially in newer cars there's rarely a need to swap hand positions when turning.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:59 AM on December 7 [4 favorites]


The proper way to drive is with your left elbow hanging out the opening window, left hand barely holding onto the wheel at the 9 o'clock position. The right hand is then available for eating cold french fries out of the cupholder between the seats.

Safety first.
posted by chasing at 10:05 AM on December 7 [79 favorites]


If you're regularly driving fast enough to be worried about the risk to your hands from the airbag, it's time to change jobs, homes or both.
Airbags deploy over 30mph, typically. So if you're NOT driving fast enough to be worried about how it goes off, you don't live in this reality. How fast you are going is irrelevant to whatever accident can happen right in front of you, or someone could blow a red light, or pull out of a side road etc., etc., etc. All of which would cause an accident of likely airbag deployment for an otherwise completely legally compliant car.

Does anyone religiously keep their hands in any particular position while driving?

Kind of, yes. 9 and 3 whenever I have both hands on the wheel. Usually 4 or 8 when I have just one hand on it (usually around town or long highway drives) and my elbow is resting on door/centre console. It's a bad habit, but... it is a habit.
posted by Brockles at 10:08 AM on December 7 [8 favorites]


I now have an old Chicago song in my head due to the post title. Like it, intentional or not.
posted by wellred at 10:08 AM on December 7 [38 favorites]


This is surely important information and I hope it’ll reduce accidents and save lives. But, let’s cut to the chase: TIL that what I’ve been teaching my 16-year-old learning driver is wrong, and what she’s been trying to tell me about proper hand-on-wheel placement is right. I can envision her look of triumph even now. This is a major loss of dad cred. Parenthood is humbling!
posted by cheapskatebay at 10:09 AM on December 7 [42 favorites]


Airbags deploy over 30mph, typically.

It’s not the speed that’s the trigger, it’s the deceleration — hit a parked car at 15mph and the airbags might not go off; hit a bollard or wall at 15mph and they probably will go off because the deceleration is more rapid.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:14 AM on December 7 [5 favorites]


Using anything other than push-pull steering would fail you the UK driving test when I took it over 30 years ago. Airbags are small explosive devices produced inexpensively enough that the liabilities from injuries sustained from their deployment has been deemed to be slightly less expensive than the liabilities from injuries sustained from not having them installed.
posted by scruss at 10:17 AM on December 7 [2 favorites]


I once had an airbag deploy on me when my newbie driver self realized I didn't have a seat belt on while turning out of the cul de sac and attempted to put it on causing me to drive straight into a cinder block wall. I was going maybe 5 miles an hour. Got a very nasty friction burn on my arm and chin and some bruising.
posted by foxfirefey at 10:20 AM on December 7 [2 favorites]


Whatever you do, don't pick your nose.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:26 AM on December 7 [4 favorites]


It’s not the speed that’s the trigger, it’s the deceleration

I'm aware, it was mainly a response to the initial comment implying that only CRAZY FAST INSANE drivers run a risk of airbags going off. What I was trying to say is that basically any accident over 30mph will be an airbag-triggering impact, but a bit of poking around suggests that min threshold for definite airbag deployment is 30km/hr in the US. Which is lower than I thought. They will go off at lower speeds (crash impulse dependent) but it suggests they will definitely go off at speed at or higher. Crash safety stuff is interesting.

Also, thank US Nanny regulations for how much more a steering wheel airbag (and the one that comes into your knees) hurts in an accident more than it should. US regulations dictate that the airbags need to control a typical UN-belted passenger, despite seat belts being mandatory, because so many people are stupid enough not to think they need to wear them. It is way, way easier to safely decelerate a human with the help of a proper seat belt than a 200+ lb projectile flying into a steering wheel and trying to escape out of the windscreen because the seat belt isn't 'cool'. I'm all for natural selection and let the rest of us not have bruised shins and burnt faces from the necessarily larger and more violent bags needed.
posted by Brockles at 10:33 AM on December 7 [10 favorites]


It also depends on how fast the person who hits you is going.

I have a small truck and finally got my notice to replace the airbag under recall. I'm short and am comfortable sitting upright and I'd rather not be killed by the airbag.

Also, if you learned '10 & 2' and tow a trailer, it can be helpful to hold the bottom of the wheel when reversing. It helps de-tangle your brain's learning about which way the wheel should go to make the trailer go the way you want. I'm not expert yet, but can mostly manage.
posted by theora55 at 10:36 AM on December 7 [4 favorites]


I now have an old Chicago song in my head due to the post title. Like it, intentional or not.

Does anyone know what the proper hand position is?
posted by otherchaz at 10:37 AM on December 7 [19 favorites]


Airbags are small explosive devices produced inexpensively enough that the liabilities from injuries sustained from their deployment

... are totally insignificant relative to the injuries they save people from, Takata airbag recall notwithstanding.
posted by ambrosen at 10:41 AM on December 7 [5 favorites]


I'm all for natural selection

Then you'll enjoy the hundreds of videos on Youtube of guys sitting on airbags and setting them off. Yes, that is a thing.
posted by klanawa at 10:41 AM on December 7 [2 favorites]


With the way my steering wheel is set up I can’t put my hands in the 9 and 3 positions, so I typically have to settle for 8 and 4 or 10 and 2. It’s very frustrating.
posted by gucci mane at 10:48 AM on December 7


10 and 2 requires about the least muscular effort to maintain good contact with the steering wheel, as there is a cosine product of gravity, the friction of your hand, and the weight of your arm meat providing "force for free".

9 and 3 relies on hand grip strength and some chest and arm musculator (providing a "pincher" action on the steering wheel) and hand friction. The weight of your arms is now working against you.

8 and 4 is the worst: only hand grip strength is working for you, with no help from friction.

I notice these things as I become more and more "differently abled".
posted by the Real Dan at 10:49 AM on December 7 [10 favorites]


On long drives, my hands tend to habitually vulcan themselves somewhere around 9 and 3 or 8 and 4 naturally. I'm probably not describing it terribly well, but with my car and steering wheel, my hands sort of rest into a v-shape, which I rest between the steering wheel and the lower v-part of the steering wheel, the bit that sort of juts out from the center for stability and looks. It's also where the steering wheel controls are kept.

The beau asked why I tended to rest my hands there, and I mentioned it was more comfortable for my arms during longer drives. Now I feel like I can continue doing my slouchy steering wheel holding in peace. See, it's safer!
posted by PearlRose at 10:50 AM on December 7 [2 favorites]


So just one knee is ok on a long empty stretch?
posted by sammyo at 10:51 AM on December 7 [11 favorites]


Isn't
posted by sammyo at 10:52 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


Oh gosh, am l getting a visit from Flo...
posted by sammyo at 10:53 AM on December 7 [2 favorites]


So just one knee is ok on a long empty stretch?

I'm just a little bit curious what you need the other knee for, but OTOH I'm not sure I want to know.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:54 AM on December 7 [4 favorites]


Here's the thing: my steering wheel connects to the car at 9 and 3, so... can we get manufacturers to change that?
posted by Phredward at 10:57 AM on December 7 [3 favorites]


Does anyone know what the proper hand position is?
Does anybody really care?
posted by MtDewd at 11:02 AM on December 7 [12 favorites]


the standard instruction was that drivers should hold the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 positions, as envisioned on a clock. This, it turns out, is no longer the case

Thumb hooked over the bottom of the wheel all rad and casual-like FTW
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:05 AM on December 7 [3 favorites]


I FEEL VINDICATED. My examiner on my US driving test dinged me for my British push-pull steering. "That's how I was taught to do it in Britain" I said; "well you're not there now", he replied. LOOK WHO'S RIGHT NOW, PAL.

On airbag deployments and injuries: I was rear-ended hard and pushed into the car in front from a standstill; my airbags deployed; I had one hand low on the wheel and got a nasty friction burn on my hand from the airbag. It also ripped my work ID badge off its lanyard and tossed it into the back seat; I still have no idea how that happened. So yeah, respect the bags: they're explosive devices going off pretty much in your face.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:05 AM on December 7 [4 favorites]


even as a passenger you should technically also never cross your legs, look back to the back seats, put put your arm over the seat back next to you, slouch, or do anything but sit up straight looking forward with your arms on the arm rests

And especially not -- as I occasionally see on my commute -- kick off your shoes and put your bare feet up on the dashboard. Gah.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:07 AM on December 7 [6 favorites]


Fortunately, my current car's wheel connects at about 8:30 and 2:30 with cut-outs that are perfect for hooking my thumb into the top one and the rest of my fingers curl around the bottom one. That way they're well out of the way of the part conspicuously marked "AIRBAG" in the middle.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:09 AM on December 7 [2 favorites]


My least favorite: don't put your phone over the airbag. Yes, I've seen it. Yes, I told the friend who used to do it why it was a bad idea.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 11:10 AM on December 7 [3 favorites]


Airbags deploy over 30mph, typically. So if you're NOT driving fast enough to be worried about how it goes off, you don't live in this reality.

I live near Boston, and mostly have to drive on regular streets. Most of the time I never reach 30.
I do go on the highway. I do go on state routes some of the time. But the amount of time where I put myself at risk of an airbag injuring my arms is very, very small.
posted by ocschwar at 11:11 AM on December 7


Someone told me a *true story*1) from Guernsey, where driving is supposed to be really slow: a driver managed to overturn their car nevertheless by trying to throw an empty paper cup out of the window while stupidly not letting go of the steering wheel.
I guess even the hand position 9 and 3 is not entirely foolproof in the context of cup disposal...

1) as true, probably, as the one of the drunken Ithaca College student who fell off a bridge and survived because of a fat raccoon taking a walk in the gorge below.
posted by Namlit at 11:13 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


don't put your phone over the airbag.

Congratulations, you just turned your airbag into a claymore.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:14 AM on December 7 [20 favorites]


My last car was a 2002 Subaru WRX. Part of the marketing for the car was that it came with an integrated aftermarket MOMO steering wheel. When I bought it, I thought it was just hype. How great could a steering wheel be? Who buys aftermarket steering wheels anyway?

After a while, I came to love that steering wheel. Holding it at 9 and 3 was so comfortable. Now, any steering wheel I use just feels unnatural. I never thought I would be nostalgic over a steering wheel, but here I am.
posted by Quonab at 11:21 AM on December 7 [3 favorites]


I definitely prefer 8 and 4, and by 8 and 4 I actually mean right hand on 4, left arm draped against the centre console.

(in a drive-on-the-left country, in case that wasn't obvious)
posted by terretu at 11:21 AM on December 7




Hanging your arm out the window is only acceptable if you're making good time on your road trip.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:27 AM on December 7 [4 favorites]


I now have an old Chicago song in my head due to the post title. Like it, intentional or not.

What the hell is that song even about? Also: did you see this post?
posted by thelonius at 11:37 AM on December 7


thelonius: that song is about drugs. Should I try to do some moooooooooore?

And yes!!!
posted by wellred at 11:43 AM on December 7 [3 favorites]


that song is about drugs

that also works for any Steely Dan song
posted by thelonius at 11:45 AM on December 7 [6 favorites]


My steering wheel conveniently has spokes at 9 and 3, which make convenient hand- or thumbrests.
posted by me3dia at 11:49 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


What the hell is that song even about?
Someone asked what time it was (no, really...the source of the other song title) and someone else answered with the song in question's title.
It was 3:34 or 3:35. Twenty-five or [twenty-]six to four.
posted by notsnot at 11:59 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


What the hell is that song even about?

Wikipedia: According to composer Robert Lamm, the song is about trying to write a song in the middle of the night. The song's title is the time at which the song is set: 25 or 26 minutes before 4 AM. Because of the unique phrasing of the song's title, "25 or 6 to 4" has been interpreted to mean everything from a quantity of illicit drugs to the name of a famous person in code.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:00 PM on December 7 [1 favorite]


Well, sure, that's what the title line is. But SUUUUURE the whole song is about writing a song. Suuuuuure. Hah.
posted by wellred at 12:12 PM on December 7 [3 favorites]


If you're regularly driving fast enough to be worried about the risk to your hands from the airbag, it's time to change jobs, homes or both.

Mrs w0mbat had been stopped in traffic on the freeway for several seconds when her car was rear-ended at speed. The airbag deployed and saved her life when her car then crashed into the car in front.
posted by w0mbat at 12:18 PM on December 7 [7 favorites]


Truck driving has led me to 8 and 4, or possibly 7 and 5, I can't even reach 10 and 2 in the one I commonly drive.
posted by deadwax at 12:26 PM on December 7 [3 favorites]


I thought you weren't supposed to hook your thumbs over the rim as they could be avulsed or badly broken in a collision.
posted by Pembquist at 12:58 PM on December 7 [1 favorite]


I mostly drive with my left hand at 12 Noon and my right hand on the stick. My hand gets in the way of the speedometer but I'm tall enough that I can't really see that dial without slouching anyway.
posted by octothorpe at 1:07 PM on December 7 [1 favorite]


I thought you weren't supposed to hook your thumbs over the rim as they could be avulsed or badly broken in a collision.

Fair point, and honest question: What exact thumb position qualifies as "hooked" enough to risk said injury? Does "loosely draped" count? "Firmly grasped"? Keeping one's thumbs completely away from the inside of the steering wheel rim requires conscious effort and results in an awkward or even uncomfortable position. And what about the rest of one's fingers, can they be similarly injured by hooking them around the rim of the wheel?

What's the more likely prospect - injured thumbs, or inadequate control of the wheel?
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:24 PM on December 7 [2 favorites]


Drive with your thumbs in - much better control. Just if you are about to have an accident, pull them out. It's not worth the loss of control to drive with them out the whole time.
posted by Brockles at 1:32 PM on December 7 [1 favorite]


It's not the gripping of the wheel that is the issue, it is the wheel getting spun against your hands and the spokes of the wheel smashing your thumb.
posted by Brockles at 1:32 PM on December 7 [1 favorite]


It's interesting the long tail 10 & 2 has. I learned 9 & 3 in my drivers ed class in 1998.

Most of my peers didn't do drivers ed. They had parents teach them enough to get through the driving test. But my dad is a terrible teacher who just says the same thing louder if I wasn't following what he was trying to explain. So whenever this news story pops up, I'm always a bit surprised how many people my age and younger think this is new advice.

Two years later I benefitted from that lesson. I was going maybe 15 miles an hour on a quiet street two blocks from my home. I was turning left, and another car plowed into me. I'm still not sure where the other car came from. Given the damage, there was conjecture the other had to be speeding, and would have been behind a parked car when I started turning left. But maybe my powers of observation just weren't a 100% there.

The airbags deployed, and the carpet burn from the airbag pushing my cheek into the headrest gave me a very Phantom of the Opera look the summer of graduation.

If you think you don't need to know this because you're an infrequent and safe driver, you're wrong.
posted by politikitty at 1:33 PM on December 7 [4 favorites]


Hey I've got an idea, what if we made emergency airbags that didn't fuck up your hands when they deployed? The big auto manufacturers can literally have that one for free, I'm not doing anything with it.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:36 PM on December 7 [8 favorites]


I learned to drive in the late 60s, and there's a lot more than where I put my hands that's changed. If I drove now like my driving instructor taught me, I'm pretty sure I'd be in more accidents, causing more accidents, and pissing off a lot of people. Just stopping for yellow lights is enough to get me rear-ended, and that's the most harmless one.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:53 PM on December 7 [1 favorite]


The steering wheel fucks up your hands, because it's going to spin out of your control when the rest of your car is out of control.

The airbag fucks up your arms only if you keep your arms above the space they'll deploy. It's been true since airbags were mandatory in 1998. If you take the airbag out of the steering column, you can't protect your head from hitting steering wheel.
posted by politikitty at 1:59 PM on December 7 [2 favorites]


I'll have to show this to my mother, who drives with the seat all the way forward with her hands at noon and her elbows resting on the bottom of the steering wheel. Yes, she's short, but it is an insane way to drive and I hadn't considered the airbag danger before.
posted by emd3737 at 2:03 PM on December 7 [3 favorites]


I live near Boston, and mostly have to drive on regular streets. Most of the time I never reach 30.
I do go on the highway. I do go on state routes some of the time. But the amount of time where I put myself at risk of an airbag injuring my arms is very, very small.


Congratulations?

I barely drive at all anymore, but in the rural area I grew up in, choosing to avoid driving on streets where the speed limit is well above 30 would have meant depriving myself of: food purchased anywhere but a gas station or a McDonald's by the highway; all other retail except video rentals, car accessories, and possibly some homemade furniture; 95% of recreational opportunities in the area; and an education beyond the 6th grade.

Never driving over 30 is simply not a possibility for many, many people, and telling people that they should just move and/or fully rebuild impoverished and dying rural and suburban communities so that they possess all of life's amenities without having to take the highway to the next town over is laughably infeasible.
posted by Copronymus at 2:12 PM on December 7 [9 favorites]


I FEEL VINDICATED. My examiner on my US driving test dinged me for my British push-pull steering.

If it helps you feel better, my American friend who moved to Ireland failed his driving test there because he wasn't using push-pull steering.
posted by exogenous at 2:52 PM on December 7 [3 favorites]


I drive a stick, so most of the time I have only one hand on the wheel. Usually at 8.

In prep for sharp turns at speed 8 and 2 if turning left, 10 and 4 if right.
posted by Max Power at 4:26 PM on December 7 [1 favorite]


I drive a stick, so most of the time I have only one hand on the wheel. Usually at 8.
The time you spend changing gear is tiny, so no excuse there.

In prep for sharp turns at speed 8 and 2 if turning left, 10 and 4 if right.

This is a terrible habit, I suggest you stop that as soon as you can manage to train yourself out of it. Really. It doesn't make much sense even if you have those numbers/corner direction around the other way. No justification at all, from a vehicle control perspective, to move your hands at all unless you need to hand over hand or shuffle (whichever, but shuffling is best), in which case you're still better off starting at 9/3 anyway.
posted by Brockles at 4:36 PM on December 7 [3 favorites]


If you're Italian, you drive with your knees. Hands are used for talking with eloquence.
posted by Zpt2718 at 6:12 PM on December 7 [1 favorite]


Any of you people who actually "steer" with your knees should be placed in the public pillory
posted by thelonius at 6:32 PM on December 7 [2 favorites]


Related.
posted by klausman at 6:34 PM on December 7


Any of you people who actually "steer" with your knees should be placed in the public pillory

Well then they really won't be able to steer with their hands!
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:41 PM on December 7 [6 favorites]


No love for "right hand at 5, left hand deploying middle finger at surrounding drivers"? You guys are no fun
posted by potrzebie at 7:14 PM on December 7 [2 favorites]


One-handed, right hand at 10 o'clock, with right forearm draped from 10 to 2 o'clock. Left hand resting.

(I thought a lot about my habitual repertoire of hand positions today while I was out driving around.)
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:28 PM on December 7


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The's right forearm is living dangerously!
posted by Jpfed at 8:02 PM on December 7


When you go to race school, one of the things they teach you is NOT to brace your hands against the wheel prior to a collision, but to rather place them crossed across your chest. Now, race cars don't have airbags and you have a helmet on always, but the airbag essentially replaces a helmet, and your hands and arms aren't meant to hold your big ol' head and upper body from colliding with the wheel, so you can end up with these massive tendon/hand/arm bones injuries. Let the airbag do its job and give your hands and arms a (non) break.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 6:50 AM on December 8 [2 favorites]


Yay 8 and 4 are what my short dino arms manage anyway! I slide the seat way up so that my elbows can basically rest on the sides of the seat, and I think this must be ok because otherwise my feet wouldn't reach the pedals.
posted by batter_my_heart at 5:13 PM on December 8


My fellow short friend got a detached retina from the force of the airbag, and since I am even shorter than her, and have my seat even closer (as close as physically possible, frankly) to the steering wheel in order to reach the pedals, I just expect to basically die if my airbag ever goes off. My hands will probably be the least of my problems. I feel like that's an issue that could warrant a little extra mainstream attention. I'm certainly not the only shrimp driving a car.
posted by asimplemouse at 7:34 AM on December 9 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I am really, really short, and years ago came to the conclusion that I am probably just going to die if the airbags ever deploy (this causes me some extra stress living somewhere with so. many. car accidents). on the plus side, I guess, with how the steering wheel is positioned at least my loved ones won't probably have to deal with a decapitated body.
posted by circle_b at 11:16 AM on December 9


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