Opinions vary as to exactly what constitutes proper hand position on the steering wheel. You probably grew up with the 10:00/2:00 position. This position is no longer acceptable because deploying airbags may throw the drivers hands into his face. We recommend the 9:00/3:00 position. Now that driver side airbags are standard equipment in the steering wheels of new cars, the 8:00/4:00 hand position has become an acceptable option. Either of these positions, or anywhere between them, is a good hand position as long as the student is comfortable (See Figure 1 - 9). Have your teen try several hand positions while parked. Point out the pros and cons of each and share your expectations with your new driver. Do not allow your student to drive with only one hand on the steering wheel, wrists crossed, or both hands at the 12:00 position. Again, airbags are the factor. Should the airbag deploy, you want to be sure the hands are directed out or down, not in the drivers face.

We recommend that you teach your teen to steer using the modified hand-to-hand method. We call it “modified” because you never actually bring your right hand to contact your left hand. You were probably taught hand-over-hand and, prior to driver side airbags, that was acceptable. In today’s automobile it is important to keep your hands away from the top of the steering wheel. If the airbag deploys, you will likely punch yourself in the face with the force of the airbag’s deployment as well as the force of your own forward motion in the vehicle.

When using modified hand-to-hand steering to turn, the left hand grasps the wheel between 7 and 8 o’clock and the right hand grasps the wheel between 4 and 5 o’clock. Depending on the direction of the turn, the right or left hand pushes the wheel up and the opposite hand slides up, grasps the wheel and pulls down to continue the turn. Never bring your hands above the 11 and 1 position. While the pulling hand moves down, the hand that initially pushed up slides back toward its original position to make adjustments as needed. Simply reverse the modified hand-to-hand process to bring the vehicle onto your intended path. Initially, your teen may be confused about modified hand-to-hand steering. If he is shuffling the steering wheel, gently correct him and encourage him to use the full range of motion. It may also help to have him focus on the smoothness of the turn.

With the new driver’s hands positioned at 7/9 and 3/5, a more natural seated position, there tends to be less muscle stress, hence less weaving in a lane. With the arms next to the body, it is more natural to keep both hands on the wheel at all times. Since the hands and arms never cross over the steering wheel there is less chance of injury to the face induced by the hands or arms in the event of a frontal crash in a vehicle equipped with a driver side air bag.

Practice proper hand position and steering method using a Frisbee, paper plate, or other disk or wheel before your teens gets behind the wheel of a car.