Driver ergonomics: Why not steer with your hands at 10 and 2?

When I was taught to drive (more than a few years ago), I was instructed to position my hands at 10 and 2 o’clock, as shown in the photo above. I was told that this was safest, because I could more easily pull down to steer left or right. There was never any consideration of how comfortable my shoulders would be after a long drive. But back then, there was no risk of an airbag flying out of the steering wheel and fracturing my forearms. Times have changed….not all drivers have kept up.

When we do “sit-fit” assessments, job coaching for drivers, and when we teach our “Driver Ergo course” (coming up on June 9), we talk a lot about hand position on the wheel. Most drivers claim to hold the wheel at the “recommended” 10 and 2 position. However, as you drive along the 401, I challenge you (or your kids) to track how many people ACTUALLY use this position. Many drivers hold the wheel with one hand at “noon”, which is neither safe nor comfortable for a long drive.

We encourage people to:

  1. Position the hands at 8 and 4 o’clock (as shown at right), most of the time. (As 8 and 4for any posture, too much of anything is a bad thing….vary your posture, but come back to 8 and 4 as your “home” position.) You want your hands lower not only for comfort, but also so your forearms are not in the line of fire if the air bag deploys.
  2. Adjust the wheel tilt or telescope, and/or the seat position, so that you can hold the wheel in this position with your elbows at the side of your body. Your elbows should actually rest against the seams of your shirt, and your shoulders should be relaxed. In this position, the load on your shoulder muscles is as low as possible, so you’ll be less likely to experience neck and shoulder pain. Your arm muscles are strongest in this position, giving you longer endurance time before you get tired, and excellent steering strength for sudden changes.
  3. Check that you have at least 10” (25 cm) between your chest and the air bag in the center of the wheel. As much as we want to optimize comfort, really small people can’t always sit as close as we’d like, without risking injury from an air bag.

We have lots more useful driver ergo tips we’d like to share with you, so join us on June 9th to learn how to assess a driver’s position, and how to select vehicles that best fit the drivers. Or, have us come in to present a one-hour driver ergo face-2-face workshop for your drivers!

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