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The Dangers of Steering with Your Hands at 10 and 2

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Ahh … driver’s ed. I remember meeting my high school basketball coach and one other kid in the school parking lot at 8am on a few Saturday mornings when I was fifteen. I had already been taught the basics of driving by my cousin, but driver’s ed with Ms. Wallace was mandatory and I couldn’t wait to get my license.

The things I remember most about driver’s ed were the brake pedal in the passenger side, the horrors of parallel parking (I still struggle with this), and the first time going through a toll booth, which totally freaked me out. The other thing I remember is the old adage of driving with your hands at 10 and 2. If my hands happened to drift somewhere else during the course of driving, Ms. Wallace would whack the dashboard with her clipboard and bark out “10 and 2!”

It’s been over twenty years since then and 10 and 2 never felt right to me. Mostly, I drive with my wrist at 12 and my hand hanging limply over the steering wheel. Sometimes, I will loosely grip the wheel at about 6:30 and rest my other arm on the center console. I rarely drive with two hands on the wheel. If Ms. Wallace was still in the car with me, no doubt her clipboard would be broken in two by now.

So, is driving with our hands at 10 and 2 still the norm?

As you might have expected, the advice varies, but there is a very good reason why driving at 10 and 2 is grossly outdated and even unsafe. The reason why—airbags.

When airbags deploy and you have your hands anywhere above 10 and 2, the force of the airbags can fling your hands back into your face, which can cause broken teeth, noses, cheekbones, and concussions. There’s also a risk of degloving, which is as gruesome as it sounds.

My habit of driving with one hand hanging over 12 is actually really unsafe because a deploying airbag would knock that hand right into my face. The force is so powerful, it could even sever my fingers, hand, or entire arm. An airbag can burst at speeds up to 200mph and faster than the blink of an eye.

Many vehicles now come with “thumb hangers” that naturally put your hands at 9 and 3, out of the risk zone for interference with airbag deployment. Some recommend keeping your hands at the Italianesque 8 and 4.

In addition, it’s also recommended that you keep a firm, yet gentle grip on the wheel and use your fingers instead of the palms of your hands. You should also avoid wrapping your thumbs around the wheel. Finally, instead of turning your wheel hand over hand, AAA recommends pushing with one hand and pulling with the other while turning.

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