10 and 2? 9 and 3. No, 8 and 4!

used to be auto safety gospel

8 and 4 steering wheelMy wife recently took a defensive driving class. It cost $25 for the six-hour course over two weeknights. (Note to self: remind my wife, when she decides to take a class again, to avoid weeknights during the school year.)

The purpose of the class is to learn things. But the motivation for taking it was to save money on car insurance. Frankly, most of the information she found familiar and/or boring. She did, however, learn two things.

Once upon a time, you were supposed to hold the steering wheel at 10 and 2. By 2012, experts were suggesting 9 and 3.

“As cars have become safer over the years, ‘the steering wheel and associated mechanisms (have) changed dramatically,’ meaning the familiar driving maneuvers ‘needed to turn the wheel have all changed.’ Principal among them is the incorporation of airbag modules in the steering column, which are designed to deploy upward to protect your head and chest.

“That means the higher up the wheel your hands are, the more likely they are to be directly over the plastic cover when it opens — that is, when superhot nitrogen gas flashes and inflates the bag at 150 to 250 mph (241.4 to 402.3 kph)”

8 and 4?

But the instructor is suggesting using 8 and 4. “The jury is very much out. Many state’s driving handbooks recommend this position as an alternative to the 10 and 2 position when driving a vehicle fitted with airbags. Hand position 8 and 4 has a slight advantage over 9 and 3, in that it is a more comfortable position to maintain for longer periods.

“Though, the 8 and 4 position receives equally wide criticism from driving experts who are not convinced it gives drivers sufficient leverage on the steering wheel.” The instructor posits that at 9 and 3, the driver’s hands if the airbag is deployed, could hit the door and the passenger.

Also, new info for the wife is the notion that driving a car length apart for every 10 mph (16 kph) is outmoded. It used to be part of the automotive safety gospel. With all the congested highways, the instructor suggests two-car lengths when traveling at 60 mph (86.5 kph).