Hand Positions for Steering: 10 and 2 vs. 9 and 3

Understanding proper hand positions for steering is crucial for safe driving. Driving schools traditionally teach the 10 and 2 position, where the left hand is at 10 o’clock and the right hand at 2 o’clock on the wheel. This method, while once widely accepted, is becoming outdated due to advancements in vehicle technology and safety features.

The 9 and 3 position is now recommended by experts for modern vehicles. This hand placement reduces the risk of injury from airbag deployment and offers better ergonomics for controlling wheel-mounted functions. It’s important for drivers to be aware of and adopt these updated techniques to ensure optimal safety and comfort on the road.

steering wheel hand positions 10 3 vs 9 2

Proper Hand Positions for Steering: 10 and 2 vs. 9 and 3

Proper hand positions for steering are crucial for safe driving. Traditionally, the 10 and 2 position was widely taught and accepted, where the left hand is placed at 10 o’clock and the right hand at 2 o’clock on the steering wheel. However, advancements in vehicle technology, such as the inclusion of airbags and power steering, have brought the 9 and 3 position into favor.

The 9 and 3 position, with hands on the lower sides of the wheel, is now recommended by safety experts. This placement reduces the risk of injury from airbag deployment and provides better ergonomics for controlling modern vehicle functions. Adopting these updated techniques ensures optimal safety and comfort for drivers.

Photo credit: Driver’s Ed. Trubicars

Here’s a detailed look at these two hand positions and why your choice matters.

The Traditional 10 and 2 Position

Imagine your steering wheel as the face of a clock. Placing your left hand at the 10 o’clock position and your right hand at the 2 o’clock position was the norm for many years. This method provided drivers with substantial control and visibility. It allowed for easy and effective steering, especially in vehicles without power steering and those with larger steering wheels.

However, the 10 and 2 position has drawbacks in modern driving contexts:

1. Airbag Safety: If an airbag deploys while your hands are in the 10 and 2 position, there is a higher risk of injury to your hands and arms.

2. Ergonomics: This position can be less comfortable, particularly for taller drivers, and might not suit the ergonomic design of contemporary steering wheels.

The Modern 9 and 3 Position

Hand of man driving a electric car

As vehicles have evolved, so have recommended steering techniques. The 9 and 3 hand position is now widely endorsed by safety experts, including the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

Here’s why:

1. Airbag Safety: With your hands at 9 and 3, the risk of injury from airbag deployment is minimized. This position keeps your arms out of the airbag’s path.

2. Comfort and Control: This position aligns better with the design of modern steering wheels, which often feature controls for audio, navigation, and other functions. It also allows for a more natural and relaxed arm position, reducing fatigue.

3. Enhanced Reaction Time: With both hands lower on the wheel, drivers can react more quickly to obstacles or sudden changes in road conditions.

Tips for Proper Steering

Regardless of the hand position you choose, proper steering techniques are crucial for safe driving:

1. Look Ahead: Keep your eyes on the road and use your peripheral vision to monitor the steering wheel.

2. Firm Grip: Hold the wheel firmly but not too tightly. This balance ensures you can feel the car’s response and maintain control.

3. Two Hands on the Wheel: Always keep both hands on the wheel for optimal control and quicker reaction times.  

4. Smooth Movements: Make smooth and gradual steering movements. Avoid jerky or abrupt steering, which can destabilize the vehicle.

5. Avoid Distractions: Minimize distractions inside the vehicle that could divert your attention from steering, such as using electronic devices or adjusting controls excessively.

6. Adjust Steering Wheel: Ensure the steering wheel is positioned comfortably within reach. Adjust the tilt and telescopic settings if available to suit your driving posture.

7. Practice Defensive Driving: Anticipate potential hazards and maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles. This proactive approach to practice defensive driving reduces the need for sudden steering maneuvers.

8. Adapt to Road Conditions: Adjust your steering technique based on road conditions, such as wet or slippery surfaces. Be prepared to make controlled adjustments as needed.

9. Stay Calm: Maintain a calm and focused demeanor while driving. Avoid letting emotions affect your steering, especially during stressful situations.

By following these tips, you can enhance your steering skills and contribute to safer driving on the road. .

Adjusting Your Driving Position

In addition to hand placement, your overall driving position is vital for safety and comfort:

1. Seat Position: Adjust your seat so that your back is supported and your feet can comfortably reach the pedals. Your knees should be slightly bent.

2. Seat Height: Ensure you have a clear view of the road, adjusting the seat height as necessary.

3. Arm Position: Your arms should be slightly bent at about a 30 to 40-degree angle when holding the wheel at the 9 and 3 position.

4. Position the Steering Wheel: Adjust the steering wheel so that it’s within comfortable reach. You should be able to grip the wheel with your arms slightly bent, ideally at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions.

5. Sit Upright: Maintain a posture where your back is straight against the seat. Avoid reclining too far back, as this can limit your visibility and reaction time.

6. Adjust Headrest: Position the headrest so that it supports the back of your head. This can help prevent neck injuries in case of sudden stops or collisions.

7. Position Mirrors: Adjust your rearview and side mirrors to provide maximum visibility. You should be able to see the rear window and side lanes without turning your head excessively.

8. Use Seatbelt Correctly: Ensure the seatbelt sits snugly across your lap and chest. It should be adjusted to provide effective restraint in case of an accident.

9. Avoid Slouching: Maintain an alert posture while driving. Slouching can lead to fatigue and discomfort, affecting your focus and control of the vehicle.

10. Keep Both Hands on the Wheel: Always drive with both hands on the steering wheel for better control and response. Avoid distractions that may cause you to remove your hands from the wheel unnecessarily.

Following these tips can help you achieve a comfortable and safe driving position, reducing the risk of accidents and enhancing overall driving experience.

Video: Holding a Steering Wheel—10 and 2 vs 9 and 3

For more information on the upsides and downside of each hand position on the steering wheel, you may check out this video from Helpful DIY:


Choosing the right hand position on the steering wheel is a simple yet significant aspect of driving. While the 10 and 2 position has its place in driving history, the 9 and 3 position is better suited to modern vehicles equipped with advanced safety features like airbags and power steering. By adopting the correct hand position and maintaining a proper driving posture, you can enhance your safety and driving comfort. Remember: regardless of what you drive, the way you hold the steering wheel can make a big difference in your driving experience and safety on the road.

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