Apr 9, 2012

You Are Driving Wrong - Part I - Hand Placement

I'm not a golfer, but after spending so much time with my grandfather as his caddy and what he taught me about driving, I would be remiss to not share "how times change." Under his tutelage, I learned what a driver was to a golfer, but also what a driver (of a vehicle) was as a person. As I prepare to become a mentor to a driver in a few years, I decided to do some "research" about tutoring them. I discovered that I have a lot to teach, but that I'm also doing it wrong myself. I'll cover the point of my entry first, and then add my personal comments.

"Back in the day," I was taught to put my hands at 10 and 2. Meaning, one hand at 10 o'clock and the other at 2 o'clock. It worked with the steering wheel in front of me that would get me home safely every night. But guess what....times changes. Why? Mainly because steering wheels have changed. Now, I need to put my hands at 9 and 3, as explained in a National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) document [PDF]. I suggest you download the document and share it with anyone that you are mentoring behind the wheel.

Image from the MSNBC report site
Okay, your question is "why," but that is because times changes, so have steering wheels. Most steering wheels now contain air bags that deploy when you are in an accident. If it deploys and your hands are at 10 & 2, your arms will be blocking the safety of the bag and they will be forced backwards towards your head. According to a report on MSNBC, the bags inflate at a speed of 150-250 mph. And to quote the report:
Among the injuries the NHTSA reports from improper placement of the hands when an airbag deploys are amputations of fingers or entire hands, traumatic fractures and a particularly stomach-churning injury called "degloving," which — trust us — you definitely don't want to look up.
The bag can also slam your hands directly into your head, causing broken noses and concussions.
Yeah, I'm thinking I don't want to run the risk of any of that happening to my arms and hands. Being in an accident isn't always because YOU did something wrong, it could happen because SOMEONE ELSE caused it. So, in trying to look out for myself, I'm going to start moving my hands to the 9 and 3 position instead of the "old skool" 10 and 2. Not to mention that I've already had a TBI (see related links on the Misc / Brain Dump page) and do NOT want to cause a concussion.

In preparing to mentor a future driver, I've learned some things myself... In fact, Part II of this series will be about how to turn the wheel. Yeah, that's changed too.

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