Part 2 – Hands Placement!
Control is everything
In competitive driving, control is everything. Driving a very powerful car without what I term as ‘total control’ is like trying to ride a wild horse……..sometimes you get it to go where you want to, and sometimes it seems to have a mind of its own. Without total control, you are not able to maximize the full potential of the car, and in a competitive situation, a less powerful car may be faster than you.
The correct hands placement is dependant upon you having the correct sitting position, which was outlined in the previous driving tip. If you have not got it right, please look it up in this site before coming back to this section.
Hands Placement on the Straights
Whilst on straight roads, the correct hands placement position is the ten to two or quarter to three position, like the hands on a clock. The idea is to have both hands on the steering wheel, gripping it firmly, and applying a slight downward pressure on both hands. This helps to hold the car steady at high speeds, and just in case the car hits a pothole, a loose stone or rock, or if it gets caught in a rut, the steering is less likely to be wrenched out of the driver’s hands. While it is true that potholes, rocks, sticks and stones don’t appear often, a tyre blowout can put your car into the ditch too. Anyway, we are talking about total control, at all times.
There are those who drive with one hand on the wheel, and those who put the tips of their fingers on the bottom of the steering, and also those who rest their two hands on the top part of the steering. This is okay as long as there is no danger, but when there is an emergency, these are the people who get caught out. Danger situations on the road don’t come with announcements. One minute everything is fine, and the very next second, all hell breaks loose; which is why you must always be ready for the worst.
Hands Placement around the Corners
The ten to two or quarter to three position accords you the best grip on the steering wheel. In this position, your hands can hold the wheel firmly, and sudden shocks on the wheels are unlikely to wrench the wheel away from you. You can test this out by putting either one or both your hands at the twelve o’clock position (at the top) and ask a friend to push at the steering. Then ask the same friend to do the same again when you are holding the steering wheel in the recommended position. You will find that no matter how hard you hold the wheel in the twelve o’clock position, it will move easily when your friend pushes at the wheel. In the recommended ten to two or quarter to three position, it takes a lot more effort.
As a general rule, the hands must never cross over the centerline of the steering wheel. The left hand should stay on the left of the vertical line cutting through the steering from top to bottom, whereas the right hand should stay on the right of it.
Even as you steer the car through a very sharp corner, the hands should be as close to the recommended hands position as possible. This is achieved by employing a ‘push-pull motion’ with the hands to move the steering wheel a little at a time to negotiate the turn. Therefore, should you hit a pothole or a rut midway through a corner, your hands are firm, and the steering wheel is less likely to be wrenched out of your grip. Also, should you be required to take evasive action, you are able to turn the steering wheel in either direction. In contrast, if your hands were all ‘crossed’ up, you’d be in trouble.
The hands should always be on the outside of the steering wheel, never inside of it. I am referring to those who like to grab the steering wheel from the inside and pull down on it to turn (very much like milking a cow). This is not recommended as it requires you to lean forward, and this means you are partially hanging on to the steering for support, which in turn means you do not have full control.
The next poor habit is the practice of letting go of the steering as you exit the turn to allow the car to ‘center’ itself, and catching the wheel as it straightens. Whilst you are doing this, who is driving the car?
This is probably the single most common fault among the defensive and advanced driving students that have gone through my instruction.
Feed the Car into the turn gently
People tend to turn the steering too much and too suddenly. Turning the steering too much means you unsettle the car more than necessary, and turning the steering too suddenly destabilizes the car. The proper way to take a car through a turn is to judge the turn correctly, and gently feed the car into the turn progressively, and as the car passes the midway mark, start to straighten the steering as the road straightens out.
…Watch out for Part 3 soon!
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