Drape that arm over the top of the steering wheel and you’re good, right? Well, you’re not going to get arrested for hand placement on the steering wheel. There is no law for where you’re hands have to be while operating a motor vehicle. Still, if you talk with any driving instructor or professional driver, they’ll tell you to always keep two hands on the wheel at all times.

State driver’s manuals recommend the proper hand placement for motorists. Those recommendations usually go out the window as soon as someone gets their license. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need to keep both your hands on the wheel.

Two Hands Prepare You for the Unexpected

reindeer in the road with a car

When driving, there are all kinds of unexpected occurrences, from a little dog running out into the street to another driver pulling in front of you. With only one hand on the wheel, you’re not completely ready to take on the demands of the road. This means instead of swerving, your only move to avoid an unexpected obstacle is to mash the brake pedal. Hard braking can save you in many situations, but a controlled swerve can be necessary.

Keeping two hands on the wheel is the only way you can be ready to swerve, change lane position, or turn unexpectedly to avoid a collision. You can choose to drive with one hand on the wheel, but you need to know that you’re putting yourself and others around you at risk if you do.  

Two Hands Help Keep You Away From Distractions

man using phone behind the wheel

One of the biggest reasons other than comfort that people drive with just one hand is because their other hand is busy doing something else. Maybe you’re texting a friend, holding some food or drink, or digging around in your center console for some spare change. Don’t do that. It’s bad enough that your attention isn’t completely on the road, don’t also take a hand away from the steering wheel.

Your phone can wait. If you’re eating or looking for something in your vehicle, simply pull off and park. A good way to help yourself is to avoid taking one of your hands off the wheel at all. Whenever you do, ask yourself why. If you’ve removed a hand from the wheel to reach for something, consider waiting until you can pull off the road and park.

Practice Proper Placement of Both Hands

hand placement on steering wheel

A while back the recommended position for your hands on a steering wheel was two and 10. Think of a steering wheel as an analog clock face. Where the numbers 10 and two show up is where driving instructors recommended people place their hands. While this hand position isn’t horrible, it’s now recommended that drivers place their hands at three and nine.

One of the biggest reasons for this hand position is that you can turn the wheel about 180 degrees without ever moving your hands. That means you’ll ultimately have better control. Most manufacturers try to encourage this hand placement through the design of their steering wheels.

Hyundai elantra GT steering wheel contours
Comfy contours and perfrorated leather often show you right where to grab.

If you get in any modern vehicle, you’ll notice that your hands feel the most comfortable gripping the three and nine positions on the steering wheel. This isn’t an accident. Automakers purposely contour this area of the wheel to get you to grab there. Find the place your hands feel the most comfortable and keep your hands there at all times.