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​“9 and 3”—a better way to grip the steering wheel

“Drive Safe Today Day” to highlight practical, sometimes counter-intuitive, safe driving strategies

In the deep recesses of my brain, I have just a few vague memories of taking driver’s ed back in the late 80s. Yet, certain things have always stuck with me—like the “10 o’clock and 2 o’clock” rule for hands on the steering wheel. I think that little gem and its helpful mnemonic are habitual for many of us.

But, as with many things in life, it’s a good idea to periodically reflect on what you’re doing, ask if there’s a better way, and commit to it. Times and technology do change, even if habits are hard to break.

Join us for Drive Safe Today Day

On September 3, Drive Safe Today Day will help us overcome some of our bad driving habits.

Together, we (Progressive and you … if you’re up to it) will pledge to drive a little safer. We’ll offer up some tips—easy things you can do to break some of the less-than-ideal driving habits that a lot of us have (according to our recent survey, at least). And, we’ll work together to make driving a little safer … for a day.

Some of those tips will be obvious (like, put down the phone); others, less so. That brings us to our first tip: “9 and 3” is the new “10 and 2.”

An engineering marvel

Most of us probably take airbags for granted, but it was only in 1998 that the federal government made them mandatory in passenger cars. According to a fact sheet published by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2013, frontal airbags have saved an average of 2,336 lives annually between 2008 and 2012. They’re an engineering marvel that have made a real difference in safety on the road.

But, driving a car with a steering-wheel airbag does require updating an old-school habit. If you’re still using the “10 o’clock and 2 o’clock” position, it’s time to change.

Slide those hands down the wheel a bit

NHTSA now recommends moving the hands down the wheel to the “9 o’clock and 3 o’clock” position. Here’s why.

When your airbag is triggered, super-hot nitrogen gas fills the bag, forcing open the plastic cover on your steering wheel. The bag then expands toward you at 150-250 mph. The higher your hands are on the wheel, the more likely they are to be over that plastic cover—and the more likely they are to be injured when it blows open.

A driver otherwise protected by the airbag can suffer a broken nose or concussion caused by the hand being blasted into the face, finger or hand amputation, fracture, or a rather gruesome and very graphically-named injury called “de-gloving.”

Ouch.

9 and 3 strikes a reasonable balance between driving safety (hands in a good position to control the car), and injury avoidance if the airbag goes off (hands out of the way of the cover).

So, 9 and 3 it is.

(And, needless to say, “Detroit leaning” is out as well.)

What do you think?

Look for more from us in coming weeks as we work to tap that data and knowledge and turn it into news you can use. I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

More articles:

http://www.nbcnews.com/#/business/consumer/get-times-youre-driving-all-wrong-f518710

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811851.pdf