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Some may have grown up being taught to hold the steering wheel at 9 and 2, and others argue that it’s 9 and 3. What’s right? Well, you can probably tell by the title — it’s 9 and 3.

Holding your wheel at 10 and 2 is a common misconception because that’s what was previously taught. However, those that may have gone to driving school a little more recently will remember that they were instructed to place their hands at 9 and 3.

Why 9 and 3?

To put it simply, it’s safer.

When drivers have their hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel, it can be dangerous in vehicles with smaller steering columns. When airbags deploy and your hands are in this position, you run the risk of severe injuries to your fingers and entire hands — which can include traumatic fractures and amputations.

When your hands are higher up on the wheel, they’re more likely to be directly over the airbag compartment when it deploys. In order for airbags to deploy, it’s filled with extremely hot nitrogen gas which is what helps it escape the plastic covering on your steering wheel — at around 150 to 250 mph.

Having your hands placed at 9 and 3 mitigates the risks of injuring your hands if the airbag deploys, and AAA also strongly recommends this driving position for seniors. It offers arm leverage and vehicle control, as well as 180-degree steering input without needing to remove your hands from the steering wheel.

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More steering wheel best practices

Adjust your wheel’s position

Most people adjust their seats when they get into a car, but not many tend to move the steering wheel. It’s important that your steering wheel is positioned properly to keep you safe in case of an accident. Having your steering wheel tilted slightly downward will point your airbag towards your chest instead of your head or neck, which will help avoid serious injury if it deploys. 

Use the hand-over-hand method 

Using the hand-over-hand method when steering your vehicle isn’t just safe when it comes to positioning, but it’ll help you have better control when driving.

When you’re using the hand-over-hand method, you’ll avoid resting your hand on the hub of the wheel or using an underhand grip while turning — which is (almost) a sure-fire way to end up with a broken arm in a collision. Hand-over-hand steering is also useful in situations where you need to navigate spaces where you may not be able to see clearly; it allows you to easily make quick movements to maneuver in tricky spaces.

Don’t take your hands off the wheel 

Last but not least, never take your hands off the wheel. Road conditions can change in a matter of seconds, and sometimes the only thing that prevents a collision is suddenly swerving out of the way. It’s tempting to multitask while driving — especially in traffic — but driving safely requires your undivided attention, 100% of the time.

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