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Steering Wheel Hand Position

Where to Position your Hands on the Wheel

A concept all beginner drivers must conquer is where to put their hands on the steering wheel. The age-old "10 and 2" hand positioning may meet DMV requirements, but is it the safest way to position your hands? Also, when is it okay to take your hands off of the wheel? Join seasoned driving instructor Liz as she sets the record straight on where your hands need to be positioned on the steering wheel. Although a fairly basic concept, it is one that many drivers are unsure of. Liz not only breaks it down for you, but also throws in some pro safety tips and things to avoid doing on your DMV road test!

Hands Positioning on the Steering Wheel

Video Transcript

Hello, driving instructor Liz here. Let’s go over how to position your hands on the steering wheel!

First things first, you need to remember to keep both hands on the wheel at all times! This is not only important for your safety; it is required by the DMV on your road test (unless you want to auto fail).

The only exceptions to this rule are temporary ones, like when:

  • You need to shift gears. You may take your right hand off the wheel to change gears but must immediately return your hand to the wheel when done shifting.
  • You need to use your hand to activate a control like the windshield wipers or head lights.
  • You reverse the vehicle. You can keep one hand, your left hand, on the 12-o-clock position of the steering wheel as you turn your body to the right to look behind you as you back up.

Other than that, two hands on the wheel at all times! Now let’s talk about how to position your hands:

If you think of the steering wheel as a clock, the main thing to remember is to keep your hands on opposite sides on the clock. For example, this would be the 10 and 2 hand position. Since the dawn of driving schools, the 10 and 2 hand positions have ruled drivers ed. While 10 and 2 is still an acceptable hand position to use, there are other hand positions that are even more acceptable and also recommended for additional safety.

In fact, many students find that the 9 and 3 position is actually more comfortable for them. In that case, moving your hands down on the wheel to the 9 and 3 position is recommended. Not only is the 9 and 3 position completely acceptable, it is actually a bit safer because it keeps your hands clearer of the airbag should it deploy.

With that said, the most important consideration is finding the hand position that allows you to keep both hands on the wheel while maintaining maximum control of the vehicle. Feel free to position them wherever is most comfortable for you and your situation. 10 and 2 or 9 and 3 are both suitable for normal residential & traffic driving.

You may have also heard about 8 and 4 hand positioning, and there’s good reason for that. If possible and if you feel in control, sliding your hands down to 8 and 4 is a pro defensive driving move:

  • For starters, 8 and 4 further reduces your risk of injury if the airbag should deploy because your hands will just be pushed into your lap instead of flying upwards or towards your face.
  • 8 and 4 will also decrease your likelihood of swerving should an obstacle surprise you suddenly. It’s harder to swerve or oversteer with your hands lower on the wheel vs having them higher on the wheel where your natural reaction is to pull down.
  • Finally, on long stretches of freeway or highway, 8 and 4 allows you to relax your muscles more and reduces the amount of stress on your neck, shoulders, and upper back.

Again, no matter which hand position you choose, the main thing to remember is always keep BOTH hands on opposite sides of the wheel in a position that YOU feel comfortable and in control with. Here’s a few more tips to keep you safe:

  • Keep your grip firm, yet gentle. Don’t “death-grip” the wheel.
  • Hold the wheel with your fingers instead of the palms of your hands Try to keep your thumbs up along the face of the steering wheel (so the airbag won’t break your thumb if it deploys)
  • Never turn the wheel while gripping it from the inside. If the wheel reverses back suddenly during an accident you may break your wrists.

That’s a lot of talk about holding the steering wheel, but it’s great information for all drivers, young and old. From Liz and everyone at Drivers Ed Direct, thanks for watching and happy steering… with both hands on the wheel of course!