WHAT’CHA DRIVIN’ ?? by Nick Nicholson


Recently, after one of my posts negatively mentioning 10 & 2 steering, I was questioned as to what the proper steering technique should be today. (By the way, if those numbers mean nothing to you, it’s a reference to the hands on an analog clock. 10, being two digits left of the top dead centre of the steering wheel and 2 being an equal distance to the right.) The driver’s hands grip the steering wheel at these two points. Theoretically, full control of steering at all times.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with full 10 & 2 holding Nick-2015your thumbs outside the steering wheel but, you should know the reason. That advice historically came from farmers who, driving tractors without power steering, worked among the furrowed fields that would catch the front wheels, turning them quickly which, in turn, spun the steering wheel. The results were many broken thumbs when the spokes on the steering wheel caught the driver’s hand while spinning. It hurt like hell, the tractor went out of control, and the next month’s workload just became harder. The 10 & 2 hand location gave their arms the necessary power to grip and control the steering wheel in a semi-stable position.

Most of today’s vehicles are built with all the comforts you can think of. Ads on TV right now are advertising equipment to drown out the engine sounds. I remember rear mounted engines that you couldn’t hear and you had to watch the rpm’s to know when to shift. Of course, that’s covered now, as well. Almost all new vehicles, including trucks, are automatic – no shifting required!

My recommendation for steering today on vehicles with power everything? Four (4) and eight (8). Why? The ergonomic position for the driver is the most comfortable. You don’t have aching shoulders from reaching at the end of the day. If armrests are available, the elbow on the armrest allows the wrist and fingers to make the minimum steering movements needed to control the vehicle on modern paved highways. Drivers oversteering is a bigger problem these days.

When airbags deploy, they come from the centre of the steering wheel. The blast is significant to save you but, the bag itself wraps out over the wheel portion where your arms are trapped with a “death-grip” at the 10 & 2 position. That portion of airbag coming to be supported by the steering wheel has large exhaust holes, now facing forward in the vehicle, right over the backs of your arms. Extremely hot gasses are exploding out through those holes resulting in severe burns. Alternatively, if your 10 & 2 grip on the steering wheel was loose, your arms are blown out to either side increasing the chances of broken arms and an uncontrolled vehicle.

In any emergency steering procedure, you hands will automatically go to the top of the wheel in the hand over hand motion. If there is a lot of correcting to do for several moments, no other method can turn the wheel fast enough unless you are “palming” the wheel. The chance of losing contact with the wheel increases significantly when palming. Very difficult to re-grasp during a collision.

You’ve all heard of ESP. Most of you will not likely associate those letters with modern vehicles where they mean: Electronic Stability Program. So, what is that you may ask?

ESP is a computer operated program that automatically improves a vehicle’s stability by detecting and reducing a loss of traction (skidding). When ESP detects the loss of steering control, it automatically applies the brakes to help “steer” the vehicle where the driver intends to go. Braking is automatically applied to wheels individually, such as the outer front wheel to counter oversteer or the inner rear wheel to counter understeer. Some ESP systems also reduce engine power until control is regained.  It is so fast that, you realize the vehicle is correcting but you can’t figure out how until after it is done. You automatically think “correct by steering into the skid” and it’s corrected before you can move.

Another piece of modern technology is ABS. An anti-lock braking system or anti-skid braking system (ABS) is an automobile safety system that allows the wheels on a motor vehicle to maintain tractive contact with the road surface according to driver inputs while braking, preventing the wheels from locking up (ceasing rotation) and avoiding uncontrolled skidding. It is an automated system that uses the principles of threshold braking and cadence braking which were practiced by skilful drivers with previous generation braking systems. It does this at a much faster rate and with better control than a driver could manage.

This can surprise you when it activates. You often feel a rapid pulsation under your foot with hydraulic brakes. That’s the system braking until just before wheel lock-up and releasing again. You may feel a vibration in the seat. The single biggest difference with ABS is that you continue to “hard” brake never giving up on steering and you look and steer to where you want to go.

Keep your people safe.
The beauty of life is in your hands.

Sources: Wikipedia

About the Author

Nick Nicholson, is a retired safety practitioner who spent many years researching the human behaviour factors of driver and pedestrian actions. Specifically, he spent 25 of those years devoted to highway crash investigations, regulatory compliance, the design, implementation and presentation of safety programs. Nick enjoyed many hours presenting professional driver enhancement training to adult participants.

As a long time Fleet Safety Council Member (1988) and the Founding Chair (1992-1995) of Council’s Hamilton-Niagara Chapter, he presents his opinions in hopes of improving the safety knowledge of readers. Nick is a firm believer in human advancement through positive attitudes, solution thinking and the understanding that the beauty of life is always in your hands.

Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Fleet Safety Council

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