It's an exciting time to be a driver—technological advancements have made for a smoother, easier ride. But until self-driving cars become the norm, every driver needs to know how to safely and effectively steer their vehicle (and yes, there are different ways to do so).
The make and model of your car might affect the size of the steering wheel, how much input is needed from you (the driver), and how much effort it takes to turn the wheel. But no matter how many fancy settings or buttons are on your wheel—your hands should always be placed in the same position. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says both hands should be placed outside of the steering wheel on opposite sides, your grip should be firm, yet gentle, you should use your fingers instead of the palms of your hands and keep your thumbs up along the face of the wheel, and never turn the wheel while gripping from the inside of the rim.
When it comes to actually turning your vehicle, forget everything you learned in racecar arcade games—there are only three ways to operate the wheel for a safe drive:
1.Hand-to-hand steering (or push/pull steering). The main idea here? With hand-to-hand steering, your hands never actually leave the wheel. Your left hand should grasp the wheel between 7 and 8, and your right hand between 4 and 5, says the NHTSA. Depending on the direction you turn, your right or left hand pushes the wheel up and over, and the opposite hand slides up, grasps the wheel, and pulls down to turn. This way of steering offers the most control over the car, and the NHTSA says since your hands never cross over the wheel, there's less chance of an injury to the face, hands, or arms in the event of a frontal crash.
2.Hand-over-hand steering. Ready for something a bit more complicated? Hand-over-hand steering is best for trickier situations, like driving at low speeds with limited visibility, parking, or recovering from a skid. With this method, the NHTSA says your left hand will grasp the steering wheel between 8 and 9, and your right hand will be positioned between 3 and 4. Your right or left hand grasps the wheel and pushes up, the opposite hand lets go, reaches across the other arm, grabs the wheel and pulls the up, over, and down as needed. As the wheel is being pulled up, the hand that started the pushing motion lets go and returns to its original position. Reverse the process to get back on a straight path.
3.One-hand steering. Your hands should always, always be on the wheel. The only exception to two-handed driving? When you're backing up or operating car controls (like wipers, flashers, or lights) that require you to reach. To avoid an accident and keep the car on the road, place the hand you want to use to steer at either 8-9 or 3-4, depending on the wheel's design. The NHTSA says this keeps the vehicle stable, reduces steering reversals, and allows for extra efforts if needed.