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Updated Driving Advice: A Better Way To Grip The Steering


On the program yesterday, we told you about a man who almost blew himself up in his car. At the end of our story, Steve offered some safety tips.


One tip was don't smoke with gunpowder in the car.

MONTAGNE: Good one, Steve.

INSKEEP: Another is keep your hands at 10 and 2.


INSKEEP: Well, many of you wrote to tell us that second bit of advice is out of date.

ALLEN ROBINSON: Twenty years ago, when the steering wheel was very large, you needed 10 and 2 because you needed your hands up high in order to make those turns.

INSKEEP: That's Allen Robinson of the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association.

ROBINSON: We have found that it's much more comfortable to have your hands at 3 and 9. It's much smoother. It's more accurate. It's easier on the driver.

MONTAGNE: Three and nine is safer too because it keeps your arms out of the way of the airbag.

ROBINSON: When you have an accident and your hands are at 10 and 2, that airbag is going to shove your hand into your face. Hopefully you don't have glasses on 'cause it's going to break them and cut your face. You'll end up with at least one if not two black eyes. And you'll likely break your nose, or it could be worse than that.

INSKEEP: The American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association has been recommending 3 and 9 for almost 20 years. The federal government prefers 8 and 4.

MONTAGNE: Robinson says it doesn't really matter as long as your arms are clear of the airbag. But old habits die hard, and some people get upset when driving instructors give the newer advice.

ROBINSON: I was working late one night, and a parent called me just really mad because those teachers were teaching things to her daughter that were wrong. And boy, did I make her unhappy 'cause those teachers were doing exactly what they should do in terms of steering and braking.

MONTAGNE: So remember this rhyme, 10 and 2, bad for you.

INSKEEP: Three and nine, that's just fine.

MONTAGNE: Four and eight, also great.

INSKEEP: What about one hand at noon?


INSKEEP: Just checking.

MONTAGNE: I wonder what the hand positions will be for a self-driving car? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.