Transportation and Vehicle Safety/Teens Driving Education


My daughter is learning how to drive. Her hand position is 8 and 4. I asked her driving teacher, we used to 10 & 2 or 9 & 2. The teacher says it is for airbag safety. Do you like their saying for now a day.


So, yes, the official recommendations for hand position have changed over time.  Up until the early 1990's, the standard was to keep your hands at 10 and 2.  But starting around 1992, airbags became standard equipment, and the steering wheels actually got smaller (next time you see a vintage car in a parking lot, take a look at how huge the steering wheel is compared with a newer car).  

The best possible hand position is 9 and 3 - directly across from each other, horizontal along the center of the wheel.  In a modern car, this position allows you the most athletic grip on the wheel and the most precise control of the car.  It also allows you to make sharp emergency and evasive maneuvers efficiently.  Hand positions of 10 and 2 or 8 and 4 limit effective control of the wheel by restricting arm movement needlessly.  Finally, a position of 9 and 3 also allows you to access many of the vehicle controls (turn signals, wipers, bluetooth, stereo, cruise control, horn) without taking your hands off the wheel.

We've also moved away from hand-over-hand steering, and instead recommend shuffle or hand-to-hand steering.  This both reduces oversteer and also prevents the arms from crossing in front of the airbag, which can cause serious injuries if the bag deploys.  A quick search on YouTube should give you some great examples of how to do shuffle steering.

These are the latest teaching recommendations, based upon the latest research and adapted to the latest technology.  If your driving instructor is recommending anything else, find a new instructor.

Hope this helps!



Michael Mercadante, MS
Founder, Instructor
Modern Driver Institute

Transportation and Vehicle Safety

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Michael Mercadante


Questions on traffic safety, safe performance and operation of a motor vehicle in traffic, about driving with special needs, learning/behavioral/developmental disabilities, understanding vehicle laws, understanding safety equipment on vehicles, defensive and precision driving techniques, driver education and instruction and driver exam preparation.


Owner and sole driving instructor for Modern Driver Institute. Eight years in traffic safety research on contracts for NHTSA, FMCSA, AAA, MDOT and PennDOT. More than 1,000 hours as a professional driving instructor. Licensed driving instructor in the state of PA. Certified Defensive Driving Instructor for the National Safety Council. Precision driving for Hollywood and independent films. Expertise in virtual-reality driving simulators and teaching students with developmental/intellectual disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and more.

member, Teen Safe Driving Coalition; member, PA Safe Kids coalition; service provider, PA Bureau of Autism Services; service provider, PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

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Licensed driving instructor, PA Department of Education Certified Defensive Driving Instructor, National Safety Council B.A. in American History (cum laude), Temple University (earned 2007) M.S. in Psychology, specialization in Educational Psychology (2015) Ph.D in Psychology, specialization in Educational Psychology (expected 2019)

Awards and Honors
Scientific Paper of the Year (2003), Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine.

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