I’m going to invent a new steering wheel.
The top segment of the wheel will be computer controlled so that when the car is headed straight that part of the wheel will be too hot to handle.
Instant ouch if the driver so much as drapes a languid arm on it or grasps it with the fist of either hand.
This won’t be one of those luxury car steering wheels that gently warms drivers’ hands stiff with the early morning chill. (While their nether regions are cosseted with a tush warmer.) No, this wheel is meant to lay on a heap of hurt.
Maybe instead of heat (instant cooling probably poses a serious technical problem) the wheel will deliver a sharp jolt of electricity. Anyway, what I’m after here is a training tool that will force drivers to take a proper grip on the steering wheel.
Sad to say, more drivers do it wrong than do it right. And it cannot be out of ignorance. Ask them and they can demonstrate the proper hold – both hands on the wheel placed, if it were a clock face, at the nine and the three. That’s the preferred grip, though the hands at ten and two or at eight and four are sort of OK and restful variations on long highway stints.
Sure, any driver can tell you that, but watch what they do. That’s what I did on a recent long trip. Here are some of the wheel grips I noticed.
• The right-handed single-fist at noon grip.
The right hand at the top of the wheel, the other hand invisible. For some reason this grip seemed to be favored by women. Many of them were also leaning forward so they could look over their fist at the road ahead. What a place to be if the airbag deployed.
• The left-handed single-fist at noon grip.
Why there would be a gender variation on right or left hand I have no idea but I saw more men than women grabbing the center of the wheel with their left hands.
• The left-hand single-fist at one or two grip.
This was another male preference. The hand reaching across the body to grasp the wheel at one or two o’clock. (Even saw one cross-hander at three o’clock.)
• The one-potato-two-potato grip.
Another female favorite. Both hands on the wheel but smack against each other at the top. (My wheel will really zap them).
• The look ma no discernible hands grip.
No hands are visible. Judging from some previous in-car observation I would guess that the driver is holding the wheel at the bottom, sometimes with only two fingers.
• The draped arm non-grip.
Just an arm hung loosely on top of the wheel. Look how cool I am. Not.
• Crossed hands dual grip.(!)
The left hand at two o’clock and the right at 10 o’clock. Thankfully, I saw only one of those.
Why should anyone care how other drivers choose to hold the wheel? Because one of them could kill you. Simple as that.
True, many of these drivers drive this way all of the time. I ran along an Illinois highway for more than two hours in sight of a woman driver who favored the right hand at noon grip. She never varied it through town and country. Wheel holding preferences are tough habits to break.
It’s possible that none of the drivers I noted have ever suffered serious consequences from their habit. And even if they have been involved in a crash they might not have realized that their wheel-holding technique could have been a contributor.
The fact remains that they are all ill prepared to cope with an emergency. And their poor preparation could involve you.
Quick and precise use of the steering wheel when avoidance maneuvers are necessary is best done with the proper grip. Two hands on the wheel, correctly separated, give a driver the most accurate and quickest response possible. Steering to avoid a danger takes a certain amount of time. Recovering from a poor grip and then steering to avoid a danger takes just that much longer. The added time could make the difference between a crash and an escape.
Steer clear of the weird grips.
And make a critical appraisal of the way you grip your wheel. It will take some conscious attention to establish a habit of doing it right. But then you won’t get burned by my new wheel.
oh well said! few people ever consider the airbag issue… and I believe that the left hand only might be a reaction to the right hand on the shifter, as it’s my constant habit as I have 3 stick shift cars. 2012 Veloster, 2011 Cruze, 1969 R/T
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