Monday, November 17, 2014

Hands at 10 and 2 - still good advice?

Most people when taught to drive, are told that their hands should be at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. For decades we've been told that's the safest position, and almost all steering wheels are designed with that theory in mind. The problem is that this theory was first proposed before power steering, when manual steering was the only option and cars were heavier to maneuver; having your hands at 10 and 2 provides good leverage to turn the wheel. The question is : is this still good advice?
I propose that it isn't, for three reasons. First, most cars nowadays have power steering. This means that it's far easier to turn the steering wheel, involving much less force. Having your hands at 10 and 2, in the old 'maximum leverage' position is at odds with power steering because you don't need that much leverage any more. In fact, I think it might be more dangerous because in the event of an emergency, people tend to do two things - step on the brake and yank the wheel one way or another. With power steering and your arms in the maximum leverage position, yanking on the steering can easily end up in far too much steering input. In the worst case - in a 4x4 or SUV - that could easily result in one front wheel tucking under and causing the car to roll. Yes there are computer aids to help prevent this now - dynamic stability control, anti roll control etc - but it's still a very real possibility.
The second reason I think it's not good advice is that the steering wheel already blocks part of your view of the instrument cluster. Having your hands at 10 and 2 blocks even more of it. Granted the manufacturers don't tend to put critical elements of the instrument cluster behind where your hands will be but you are still blocking your view of part of the display.
The final reason for not having your hands at 10 and 2 is crossed arms when steering. We're all taught not to do it, but a significant number of drivers will cross their arms when steering to turn a corner. If you do this when crossing traffic - turning into a street on the opposite side of the road for example - if you are unfortunate enough to have a collision with another vehicle, the airbag will propel your crossed arm into your face which has the potential to break your arm and your nose. EMTs and ER staff will back me up here - it's the most common injury in front three-quarter crashes. A broken nose and either a broken right or left arm depending on if you drive on the right or the left.
I would propose that 8 and 4 are better positions for modern driving. Less leverage because of power steering, not blocking the view of the instruments, and in the event of an accident, less likely to propel an arm into your face because being lower down the wheel, the temptation to cross arms when steering is reduced.