10 & 2, 9 & 3, Or 8 & 4; No, These Are Not Lottery Numbers!


For decades, driving schools and safety organizations had a firm stance that the safest position to hold the steering wheel was at the ten and two (10 & 2) position. With the addition of airbag technology, this safety standard is being debated by driving school instructors, emergency responders and police forces.

An airbag deploys at about 100 miles an hour. This is enough force to cause injuries while avoiding injuries from the crash itself. Many organizations are either recommending or teaching their fleet operators to drive with the hands firmly planted at nine and three (9 & 3), with the thumbs to the outside of the steering wheel. Some police forces are even going as low as eight and four (8 & 4). To me, that would be akin to one-handed driving, unless you are a professional driver.

According to Transport Canada’s Air Bag Deactivation Document, “The vast majority of people can avoid being too close to an air bag and can minimize the risk of serious air bag injury by making simple changes in behavior. Shorter drivers can adjust their driving position. Front-seat adult passengers can sit a safe distance from their air bag.” They recommend sitting at least 25 centimeters from the center of the steering wheel to the sternum. However, there is no mention of how air-bag deployment affects hand, arm and face injuries.

I think I have to go with a more common sense approach. A driver needs to decide the safest hand position based on the type of car, style of steering wheel, size of the person driving, and level of driving experience. I would much rather have a driver choose a safe position that will allow optimum steering control to avoid a collision, than worry about injuries after the fact.

For more info on the debate:

There is a great article written by Dave Long, The Airbag Detective, Medic, RN that presents a good overview of the rational.

Join the Discussion

What do you think is the safest driving position out of the following?

  • 10 & 2?
  • 9 & 3?
  • 8 & 4?
  • One hand on the wheel, and one hand on my coffee?

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