Hand Position on Steering Wheel

When I was grwoing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s we were taught to place our left hand at 11:00 and right hand at 5:00 on the steering wheel. With power steering the hand positions were changed to 10:00 and 2:00. Now with with airbags the recommended hand position is 7:00 and 5:00. Can anyone explain why it was 11:00 and 5:00 during the 40’s and 50’s?

Lack of experience.

I’ll guess pre power steering required more leverage. Have always used 7/5 position, and encouraged that to my kids when teaching them to drive. Arms are more relaxed, can react quicker in either direction and have greater range of motion. Over correction when highway driving seems less of a problem as well. See others who want a death grip on the wheel…usually in the 11/5 position.

7/5 and relaxed position is common to many sports that require quick hand reaction, why should driving be any different.

I go with 7/5 or 4/8. What scares me is someone with one hand at 12 and the other holding a cell phone.

I think the change has to do with a higher focus on safety. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, automotive safety wasn’t a big focus, and the odds of losing someone in an auto accident was higher than it is today.

I’ve never heard of 11:00 and 5:00 before.

10:00 and 2:00 is also known in professional driving circles as the “Nascar grip”. It’s the safest hand position to use in case of a blow-out or if you need to manuver quickly and precisely. 7:00 and 5:00 is dangerous as well as 11:00 and 5:00. You would have very little manuverability in these positions. I vote that they be known as the “dead mans grip”.

Used to be 10 and 2, but airbags now make that unsafe. Nobody’s mention 9 and 3, but that’s what I use.

I believe the 7/5 is so your arms do not get blown off your torso when the air bag comes flying out at you at 100 mph.

I was taught the 10/2 position but for years I placed my left hand at 9 and my right hand at 6. This is the 9:30 position, that way I am always 30 minutes early wherever I go.

In my Civic, I’m using the 9 position with my right arm usually on the arm rest. When driving my Chevelle, I used the right arm 12 and left arm out the window when I drove around town.
When test driving, I usually start out with the 9/3, but will tend to drop the 3 if I get comfortable with the vehicle.

I just went to a manufactures driving course, and their recommended driving position for the hands is at 9 and 3 on the wheel. This and the proper seating position keep you both safest in a crash and most able to avoid a crash. Seat should be set so your head (in a sedan/coupe/sporty car) is a fist width from thumb to pinky below the head liner, knee of leg on th dead pedal can’t lock, brake is fully extended without locking knee, wrists rest on top of wheel without shoulders moving off of seat back, and head rest elevated to match your height.

So, in a crash, your hands blow sideways and free, your knees aren’t locked, your head is supported, etc etc. It all makes a difference.

If you ever watch a video of a stunt driver in a deliberate collision, you will see he lets go of the steering wheel and holds his hands out to the sides to get them away from the air bag.

I have heard keeping your hands at 10:00 and 2:00 will cause the air bag to break your wrists, and that was the reason for the 9:00 and 3:00 standard. I would like to know the reasoning behind the 7:00 and 5:00 standard.

Whitey would you not think in a deliberate collision by a stunt driver (not a test driver) that the airbags would be disabled or a non-airbag car used?

I think much of the bodily arm issues from airbags has been dealt with by new slower or moderated deployment (newer generation airbag tech.)

Me too. I use 7/5 only when 9/3 gets tiring.

I don’t know the answer to this question, but I wonder if the size of the steering wheel or the absence of an automatic transmission was somehow a factor in the recommended grip position back in the 1940s. Before hydraulic assist (“power steering”), steering wheels were huge, to provide the leverage necessary to crank the sucker around.

Perhaps the recommendation of the right hand position at 5 o’clock placed it nearer the shifter? Were most shifters on the column or floor back then? I have descended into idle speculation.

In an era before cupholders, perhaps the 11/5 position made it easier to drive without spilling your martini.

In the video I watched, the airbags were not disabled. Besides, if I was a stunt driver, I would want the air bags to function, even if they were a redundant precaution kept in case of failure of other safety systems. No, I don’t think it would be a good idea to disable airbags in a car used for stunt driving.

The video I saw included safety tests with a stunt driver operating the vehicles.

7 and 5? You mean holding the wheel underhand, with both hands at the bottom of the wheel? Don’t think I’ve ever seen that done before.

I’m a 10 + 2 guy. Most cars I’ve driven have the central part of the wheel (the part that houses the airbag) connect with the wheel at about 2:30/:9:30. About perfect to hook one’s thumbs around. A 9+3 position would have my hands in-between connection points (the center of wheel kind of looks like a horizontal “H.”)

My wife constantly uses 7/5, which as MeanJoe says is underhanded and offers no leverage. When I’m in the car, I correct her, but to no avail. There is no way you can control the wheel from that position in the event of a blowout. 10/2 is the safest position, IMO, especially if you’re using your right hand to shift, fiddle with the radio, etc., in which case it’s just 10.

/Mr Lynn

I have heard keeping your hands at 10:00 and 2:00 will cause the air bag to break your wrists,

I know you are going off what you heard but I have inspected hundreds of vehicles with blown bags and I have never seen a vehicle owner with broken wrists.

As a member of my hospital’s Trauma team I have seen one patient in a dozen years with injuries to his thumb from an air bag deployment. I believe he was an older dude that drove with one hand on the center section of the steering wheel (my dad drove like that).

In race school (road racing) we where taught to position the arms so there is a slight bend at the elbows with the hands at a position that will allow as much rotation of the wheel without getting your arms crossed up. Nascar drivers generally don’t have that much steering input and usually only steer left…

Off roaders keep their thumbs from wrapping around the wheel due to kick back.

With the relative ease of today steering systems I think 10 and 2 or 9 and 3 offer the best comfort and reaction ability combination. YMMV!

Of course these days both hands on the wheel would be a HUGE increase in most drivers’ safety!