Mirrors are a crucial driving tool for both the race car driver and the driver on the street. In a race car I constantly scan the view behind me to determine whether I'm pulling away from my competitors or whether they are catching me. In a close racing situation I can monitor on which side a driver is trying to pass and can drive defensively if necessary to make that job as hard as possible for him or can move aside to let him pass safely.
Race cars don't, typically, have a rear view mirror, and the field of view of side mirrors is limited. The racer has to get his mirrored information from quick and infrequent glances at times when information from behind him is more critical than information from the front.
For the street driver, mirrors are much more informative and much more important. The passenger car driver should make adjustment of the mirrors a part of his pre-start routine, checking to make sure that they are properly adjusted after fastening the seat belt but before starting the car. Ideally, your three mirrors should be positioned on the car so that you don't have to move your head to see them. While this is not always achievable, it is usually possible to adjust your mirrors so that they can be viewed with a minimum of head movement. If you have to lean, scrunch or crane to use any of your mirrors effectively, readjust them or, if necessary, move them for easier viewing. Scanning all three of your mirrors should only take your attention from the road ahead for a split second.
Passenger cars have three mirrors for a reason. To focus all three mirrors on the same area is redundant and wastes their usefulness. The center, rear view mirror should look almost directly to the rear of the car and should be adjusted to cover all of the rear window and as much of the rear side windows as its field of view will permit. When it's properly adjusted, the bottom of the car's rear window should be just at the bottom of the mirror. There's no driving value in being able to see into the back seat of your car.
The left and right side mirrors should be adjusted to show just the smallest hint of their respective sides of the car. When these mirrors are perfectly adjusted a car passing you should move seamlessly from your rear view mirror to your side mirror to your peripheral vision without ever being out of your sight. Most cars have one or more side "blind spots" which aren't readily seen in the rear mirror or by the driver's turning his head. Proper adjustment of the side mirrors will enable them to cover these blind spots so that the driver is never unable to see nearby traffic.
The heavier the traffic in which you're driving, the more often it is necessary to scan your mirrors. If you're working on developing a habitual scanning pattern while you drive, all three mirrors should be a central element of your scan and should be looked at no less often than every 30 seconds. Awareness of the status of traffic immediately behind and beside you will allow you to take evasive action, when it's necessary, with confidence and safety. The importance of using your mirror -- combined with a turn of the head -- before routinely changing lanes cannot be overemphasized. Look before you signal, signal before you move.
If for any reason you are unable to use your rear mirror, whether because your rear window is blocked (even though it shouldn't be) or because you're being followed by a much larger vehicle, readjust your side mirrors inward to cover slightly more of the road behind you and slightly less of the road beside you. If you can't easily adjust the right side mirror from the driver's position, leave it in place but compensate with the left side mirror. Don't neglect to take your reduced visibility into account, however, and adjust your driving style accordingly. Return your mirrors to their ideal position as soon as the obstruction is gone.
Many drivers find that the addition of a small, convex stick-on mirror to one or both of their side mirrors gives them a valuable second view of the area around them. Your side mirror may be large enough to accommodate one of these; if it is, they're worth a try. I'm very partial to Multivex mirrors, both on my race cars and on my personal cars.
With properly adjusted mirrors and a little practice in quickly and frequently scanning them, the passenger car driver can always know the traffic conditions in his immediate vicinity, just as the race car driver should.
Copyright © 1998 by Tim Moser of Silhouette Racing. All rights reserved.
To finish first, you must first finish." This racer's maxim is somewhere in the mind of every race car driver throughout every race. Some variation of it should be in yours whenever you're driving a motor vehicle. Whenever a racer is driving wheel-to-wheel or nose-to-tail with another car, whenever he is about to pass another car or be passed, some portion of the driver's mind is considering accident avoidance: "Where will I go if.....?"; "What will I do if....?"
Accidents are avoided in the driver's head, not in his driving skills and techniques, for all that our previous articles have emphasized the safety aspects of driving technique. In past columns we've discussed looking well ahead of one's car and being aware of one's surroundings at all time. We've talked about the importance of and techniques for keeping braking and steering as separate as possible. We've discussed mirror adjustment and its importance in assuring visibility of all parts of the road. All of these elements increase the driver's ability to anticipate dangerous situations and to respond to them appropriately.
Probably the single most important element of accident avoidance is space. More highway accidents are caused by following too closely than by any other factor. The 2-second rule -- leave 2 seconds of space between your car and the one in front of you -- should be followed rigorously. Allowing yourself the space to deal with another driver's actions should be combined with your awareness of traffic well ahead, beside and behind you in always having an escape route available. Think consciously about where you can go if another driver suddenly puts himself in harm's way, and reassess your options continuously.
Any time you're not doing this, because you're talking on the cellular phone, because you're adjusting the radio, because you're sightseeing, because you're dealing with the drink that your child just dropped on the upholstery, you are dramatically increasing your chances of being in an accident.
Another significant contributor to street and highway accidents is speed differential. For the racer it comes into play when several classes of cars are racing at the same time or when cars of the same class are racing at markedly different speeds.. For the highway driver it's a much more common experience. One of the most dangerous places on the highway to drive is in the fast-moving commuter lane when single-occupant traffic is stopped or significantly slowed. Never assume that the cars next to you in that situation are going to stay out of your way. Always know what you will do if a slow car suddenly moves into your path. Depending on the surrounding circumstances, a speed differential of as little as ten miles per hour between your car and a nearby car can decrease your safety margins.
Accidents occur, on and off the race track, when someone exceeds the limits. Know the limits of your car. Know your own limits. Driving with impaired vision or impaired visibility; driving while drowsy; driving after consuming any quantity of alcohol, drug or medication; all increase your chances of being in or causing an accident.
"Avoiding accidents is no accident" is more than a safety slogan. It's the essence of safe driving on and off the track.
Copyright © 1998 by Tim Moser of Silhouette Racing. All rights reserved.
This is the first of a planned series of short articles on race drivers' techniques and how they can be applied to make everyday driving safer, more efficient and more comfortable.
One of the first things every race car driver has to learn is to pay attention to the track ahead. It's hard, when you're inches away from another car or a concrete wall at 150 mph or more, to remember that the most important part of the track is hundreds of feet -- or hundreds of yards -- ahead. Even at highway speeds, there's very little the driver can do about things that happen within 100 feet of the car, virtually nothing he can do about things that happen within 50 feet. While it's important to know what is happening in that space, the part of the road on which the driver must concentrate is the part that's going to be driven next.
Racers attempt to drive their cars to and through precise spots on the track, lap after lap. One of the hardest things for the novice driver to learn is not to look to see how close he or she is to each point. Well before each critical point is reached, the driver must be looking past it, down the road. Fixating on any particular location, but particularly on one close to the car, is a sure formula for slow lap times, at best, or an accident, at worst.
Successful race car drivers develop a constant visual scanning pattern. They use only their peripheral vision to note what's happening on the sides of their cars. They automatically and constantly scan all mirrors, the car's instruments, the track immediately in front and the track far to the front. Then they scan back to the mirrors, the instruments, etc. This same technique should be applied to driving on the street or highway, where the scan should not include the passenger's seat, the back seat, the radio dial, the cellular phone, the scenery that is going by the car or the attractive person in the adjacent car.
There are several reasons for looking ahead. It's obviously important to see what traffic is doing, to anticipate slowdowns, congestion, accidents, pedestrians and stray animals. Of equal importance, and perhaps not as well understood, is that looking ahead gathers information about where the road is going as well as what's happening on it. A quick look (remember, don't fixate anywhere) brings the driver a road picture, a mental map, that is stored and processed after the visual scan shifts to somewhere else.
Looking as far ahead as possible on a curvy road or a curvy track will reduce the number of steering changes necessary to negotiate those curves safely and smoothly. Looking 100 feet ahead instead of, say, 25 feet ahead on a winding road canl reduce wheel input (the number of times one moves the wheel for steering corrections) by about half. On the street, that translates into safer, smoother and more comfortable cornering. On the track it translates into cooler tires, higher cornering speeds and faster laps.
One looking ahead problem that race car drivers don't, typically, have to deal with is larger vehicles. You can't look at the road ahead if you're behind a truck, a bus or a passenger vehicle you can't see around, over or through. Any time your forward visibility is limited to the vehicle in front of you, you're in danger on the highway or the street. Whenever possible, even if it requires slowing down or moving from a faster lane into a slower one, stay with vehicles your own size on the highway. The back end of a truck or bus doesn't give you the visual information you need to stay safe and comfortable.
Copyright © 1998 by Tim Moser of Silhouette Racing. All rights reserved.
Night driving is not a common racing experience. For the most part, only endurance racers and, occasionally, rallyists encounter its unique challenges. Even when racing at night at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour, night racers have some unique advantages over the typical motorist. They don't have to cope with oncoming traffic; they are driving a familiar course; they are driving cars equipped with extraordinarily bright and far-reaching lights. While the night racer is always outdriving his lights, he has the use of familiar reference points on the race track and a system to prewarn him of hazards in front of him.
The everyday motorist, especially this time of year, spends a substantial portion of his or her driving time in nighttime conditions. Night driving is such a common experience that we tend to forget until we're reminded, usually unpleasantly, its particular hazards.
We can't see as well at night -- not only because it's dark, which is obvious, but because our general visual acuity is diminished. Color vision disappears and with it the ability to distinguish fine details. Eyes that are constantly dilating and constricting in changing light conditions become tired quickly. The degree to which vision is impaired at night varies greatly from driver to driver, but all drivers experience it.
Oncoming traffic is a major source of both vision impairment and eye fatigue. When meeting another car, avoid looking directly at it, particularly when its lights are shining directly at you. Instead, look to the right side of the road. In cases where oncoming lights are particularly bright it might even be worth very briefly closing one eye to avoid its being exposed to glare. One advantage that you have driving at night is that you can see oncoming traffic earlier because its lights precede it.
Use high beams whenever you can safely and legally do so, even if only for brief seconds at a time. Their advantages are obvious. But remember that your bright lights are a hazard to other drivers' vision. On straight roads, switch to low beams for oncoming traffic as soon as oncoming headlights resolve from one light into two. When following another car, switch to low beams well before your lights illuminate the leader's car.
Since you're still looking as far as possible in front of your car, you can take advantage of the headlights of the car you're following to show you road direction and road hazards well in front of your own headlights. Typical passenger car high beams can't illuminate effectively much farther than 200 feet away. Since your car travels 88 feet per second at 60 miles per hour, any speed in excess of 60 mph (or about 45 mph on low beams) puts your 2-second stopping area (see my article on accident avoidance) beyond your range of vision. At any speed in excess of 60 mph you are outdriving your headlights.
Your headlights also serve the purpose of enabling you to be seen. They should be turned on well before dusk, left on well after dawn and should be on at any time that your windshield wipers are in motion. Do not, under any circumstances, drive with only parking lights on. Not only is it illegal in many states, it risks misleading oncoming drivers about the size and range of your vehicle.
Finally, we must take note of the hazard of drowsiness at night. Not only are we more likely to be sleepy, but the light conditions and resulting eye fatigue make us prime candidates for "highway hypnosis", a semi-alert state in which we may be able to drive but are unable to react quickly to emergencies. To avoid highway hypnosis, make sure that you change your focus often -- scan inside and outside the car, close and far, just as you would in daylight.Avoid at all costs becoming fixated on the road's center reflectors, which are great hypnotizers.
If you notice that centerline reflectors look like squiggly lines instead of bright dots in front of you, you are experiencing severe eye strain and are on the leading edge of highway hypnosis. Pull off the road, take a break, refocus your attention, use whatever trick is necessary to get yourself alert and attentive once more. Failing this, stop. You're on the verge of being a hazard to yourself and the drivers on the road with you.
Copyright © 1998 by Tim Moser of Silhouette Racing. All rights reserved.
In my first braking article, earlier in this series, I promised a separate article on antilock braking systems (ABS). A recent report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has raised questions about the effectiveness of antilock brakes and prompts me to follow up with this article.
Strictly speaking, antilock braking isn't a racing technique, since most race cars don't utilize antilock braking. There are two primary reasons for this: 1) It isn't entirely clear that antilock braking will reduce stopping distance for the skilled driver; and 2) Antilock brakes add system complexity, cost and weight to the race car, the disadvantages of which outweigh any possible advantages.
The IIHS report, issued December 10, 1996, notes that in single-vehicle accidents, cars with antilock brakes are as much as 44% more likely to produce fatalities than are cars without the antilock system. While the Institute declines to give a reason for this, it seems to me that the reason is simple and obvious. I don't believe that it indicates that antilock brakes are ineffective or dangerous in and of themselves. The problem is that stopping with antilock brakes, in an emergency situation, requires an entirely different braking technique than the one used with conventional brakes, and virtually no drivers have had or taken the opportunity to learn this new technique.
Different ABS systems work and react differently under extreme braking. While they all prevent the brakes from locking up, many of them generate pedal feedback -- pulses or bumps -- when they're working. They may seem to be pumping themselves; they may alternate between feeling firm and feeling soft; they may feel as though the pedal is going to the floor. The instinctive reaction for most drivers when they feel this strange brake pedal action is to reduce brake pressure, which deactivates the ABS, increases stopping distance and can actually cause a loss of control by upsetting the car's balance.
I said earlier that it isn't entirely clear that ABS will reduce stopping distance for the race car driver. It is very clear that it will reduce stopping distance for the everyday driver -- except perhaps in loose gravel or loose snow -- but that's not its primary purpose. The primary function of ABS is to enable the driver to steer the car while braking at maximum effectiveness. But steering in an emergency stop is itself a new technique. Abrupt or severe steering movements under these conditions will, again, unbalance the car and may cause a loss of control.
If you have a car with ABS you must learn to use it. ABS works and works well when you apply maximum braking pressure and HOLD it. DO NOT pump or ease off on ABS brakes in an emergency braking situation, no matter what they seem to be doing. If you steer while in an ABS stop, do it smoothly, but don't, under any circumstances, release or lighten your pressure on the brake pedal until your car is stopped completely. None of the above, by the way, applies to pickup trucks with rear ABS only, which should be driven as though they have no ABS at all.
It behooves every driver of an ABS-equipped car to unlearn his or her old braking habits and to learn the new ones that work with ABS. To do that, take your car to a safe location such as a completely empty and obstacle-free parking lot or a completely unoccupied street, preferably when the pavement is wet, and practice hard braking. Don't "slam" on your brakes, but press firmly, as hard as you can, with the force that would definitely lock up conventional brakes. Start at 15 - 20 mph and try to lock the brakes up while driving in a straight line. Your tires may screech or even skid or slide momentarily, but they should not lock up. If you can lock your brakes up, your ABS is not functioning properly. Stop your practice immediately and get your brakes checked and repaired.
No matter what the car or the brake pedal does in this practice, don't let up the braking pressure. Get used to what your ABS feels like when it's working; then do the same thing from 30 - 35 mph. At each speed, once you are comfortable with the feel of the car in a straight line, practice turning smoothly but positively while under maximum braking. Repeat this exercise several times, particularly at the higher speed, until you are completely comfortable with the way your car will react to a maximum braking situation and are confident that it won't surprise you.
ABS technology is expensive, and the more expensive the car the better the quality of the ABS system it is likely to have. There is a world of difference between, say, the ABS in a relatively low-cost Chevrolet and a top-of-the-line Mercedes. Both, however, require learning new driving habits.
Learn your car's ABS braking, what it feels like in your car and how it's different from what you have learned in the past. It is an exercise that can save your life in an emergency.
Copyright © 1998 by Tim Moser of Silhouette Racing. All rights reserved.
DRIVING OR CAR CONTROL?
Most of us if not all, have to drive. We have to since there maybe limited or no public transport to get us to our destination, on time and with the flexibility we want. As you will have noted it seems as if more and more cars are on "our" highways - all competing for that 20 feet or so of space.
So, not only has traffic density gone up but we have more distractions. The debate still rages over the relative distraction of tuning a radio versus using a cell phone versus talking to your passenger. No matter what your personal feelings on these issues the fact of the matter is that once you start your car, you and your loved ones are in a very dangerous environment. If you are driving an SUV then your chances of survival are probably better than most, but not all of us drive these vehicles, so what can we do to get the maximum protection for ourselves?
The first step is your state of mind when you get into your vehicle. You know that you are a good driver - right? So, you need to challenge yourself with the question "How can I be a better safer driver?" Back to the state of mind. You are not "just" driving; you are now responsible for yourself, family and the other road users. Start thinking about the potential impact of that 1,000th of a second slip in concentration. Start thinking about car control versus driving.
What's the difference? Car control is a major step in approaching defensive driving. It is an all-embracing process starting with you. Do you check your tires every week? Is there one tire that is always a few pounds off? Might that be a clue to having the tire or valve checked? Did you do a cockpit check when you got into the car? Did the warning lights go out before you started the engine? Were the instruments reading normally, were the passengers all strapped in with the doors secured before you moved away? Do you look at the ground after you have reversed out of the garage or away from a parking spot? Are there any vital fluids on the ground seemingly always in that same relative spot?
This is not boring stuff, this is critical to your safety. So now you are on the road. Do you do a moving brake test? It is a good habit to get into. Go to 20 mph and check the mirror, and breathe on the brakes - do they bite -well, now we know that they work.
The single biggest thing you can do to be a safer driver is to start talking to yourself. Give a commentary about traffic in general, cars changing lanes, slow cars, fast cars and more. Tell yourself about what you are observing and then what you are doing about it. Two things are going to happen, one your vision will go up, and with improved observation you now have the tool to plan.
The information you are gathering should be used in three ways.
Take the information in, use it appropriately and give it back to other road users. This can be through the use of turn signals, brake lights, hazard lights etc. With planning you will improve your hazard recognition and with that your hazard prioritization. With the foundation of information, the next layer is position, speed, gear and acceleration. The position, speed and gear overlap and ensure that you are always in the correct position at the right speed and in the correct gear for all hazards and occasions. You can then move to the acceleration phase with the car under complete control. If you can plan, you are going to be a smoother driver. You are going to take the "suddenly" or "I thought" or "He/she looked like…" out of the program. In almost all cases where there is a smoother driver, there is a safer driver. If someone describes you as a smooth driver, it is one of the biggest compliments you can receive.
A key statistic to remember - Driver error accounts for greater than 90% of all accidents. Think of your car as a half full bottle of water. You don't want all the water at one end. If that is where it is, then you are either braking or accelerating. Brake smoothly; feed power into the car through controlled acceleration. Consider the lateral effects and relate that to what the passenger is sensing. Can you make the journey more comfortable for everyone? I like to ask the people I coach to stop thinking in absolute terms of miles per hour. At 60 mph you are covering 88.2 feet per second or about 4 car lengths. The conversion is 1.47 but use 1.5 to multiply mph into ft/second for ease. Does that sound better or worse? I think it sounds more realistic because it directly converts into thinking about energy, and in a case of braking how one dissipates energy. If one car is overtaking another, and they are side by side with the slower car doing 70 mph, and the faster is doing 90 mph, they both brake at exactly the same time and with the same efficiency, what speed will the 90 mph car be doing when the 70 mph car is stationary? The answer is a staggering 57 mph. At 70mph, a 28.6% increase [90 mph] in your speed will result in a stopping distance 52% longer.
This is the "squared" rule in action, as you increase your speed you increase the vehicle's energy by the increase in speed squared, and the braking (not thinking) distance is proportional to the vehicle's energy. The figures here do not exactly follow the squared rule because of course "thinking" distance does not square with speed. The scary thing is that at 70 mph, and with ABS capable of 0.9g of deceleration, with an alert driver, anything within 270 feet of the front of your car is going to be hit. Speed does not kill, inappropriate use of speed kills. Safe controlled driving to you all. Talk yourself into talking, and you will be safer. Article contributed by Gordon Booth, Chief Instructor of Drivetrain Inc. based in San Jose California.
SAFE AND FIT TO DRIVE:
Are we safe and fit to drive? We should all be asking ourselves this question before we strap in and start moving a vehicle on the roads. Let's all remember the vehicle gets us there, but we are in control - or are we? What is safe and fit? First, there is the mental approach to driving. Did you wake up concerned about something this morning? Were you dreading "that" meeting you could not put off yet again? As you walked out of the house was there a last minute "debate" on a sensitive issue? These emotions, concerns and worries will all contribute to your mental approach to your vehicle and how you drive.
The second element is the physical ability to drive. Did you have a good night's rest, or are you paying for your overindulgence of last night? Did you have breakfast, or was it rushed, out the door with a cup of coffee? On that note, I am always amazed at driver's willingness to have hot drinks - drinks that can and do burn, sloshing around the cockpit. Yes, I know about the travel cups, and cup holders, but think about it. So now we have established that we have a safe and fit driver approaching the vehicle. Let's stop, take a deep breath and admit that if this is the case then we have a significantly better chance of being a safe and accident free driver. I believe your mental approach and physical well being are keys to safe, planned and smooth driving.
Now we are strapped in. Let's go through the cockpit pre-departure check. When did you last check the tire pressures? Did the warning lights go out before starting the engine, or were you in too much of a rush to notice? Did the remaining warning lights go off after you started the engine and after releasing the parking brake? Everyone strapped in and with the doors securely shut? Excellent now we can proceed to that fun filled environment called the freeway. Oh, by the way, did you complete that 20-mph moving brake test? It's good to know they work before getting on the freeway.
This is great! Now we are on the freeway. You will have noted that all those drivers going faster than you are maniacs, and all the slower one's idiots. Does that sound right? The competition for that 20 feet of road is intense. This combined with traffic density makes for a dangerous environment. Not only that, but in this fun filled environment we have "tools" to ensure that we are completely occupied. When I say "tools", yes, I am referring to the radio, the scalding hot coffee, the wonderful cell phone, and we are also having an intense conversation, so who has time to drive and drive safely? So this is said somewhat tongue in cheek, but I am sure that at one time or another you have been there.
This is multi tasking big time and comparable with asking the pilot flying the aircraft to complete the crossword puzzle during takeoff or landing. The answer is no. If it is yes, then you are probably in cognitive overload and it's getting worse. I would suggest that these factors taken cumulatively all contribute to that horrible phenonenom Road Rage and you do not want to be a part of that. So let's get back to basics - driving the vehicle safely. If you have read any of my earlier articles you will have seen reference to the use of a "commentary". This is probably the greatest single tool to safe, controlled driving that you can practice everyday, in the privacy of your own vehicle.
Start by talking about what the cars are doing around you. Say, "the speed limit is 65 mph and I am doing 60 mph". What is the condition of the road surface? Are there changes in the surface? What about those road signs? Are they informational or advisory? Do they warn of a hazard or do they order as in a stop sign? Start doing the commentary slowly, and build in the various visual inputs. After some practice you will be able to do a "running commentary".
The primary benefit is significantly improved vision. Your ability to recognize and then prioritize hazards will increase, and you are now in that wonderful situation of being able to "plan" the drive. Things will happen less "suddenly", you will have created a "safe zone" around your vehicle. You will become a much smoother driver. As I have said before, a smooth driver is, in most cases a safer driver. To be called a smooth driver is a great compliment. Going back to the cockpit drill, here is my suggested checklist. Please add to it if circumstances require and maybe cut it out and have it laminated - I have.
1. Door secured - CHECK
2. Parking brake - SET & CHECK
3. Gear lever in park - SET & CHECK
4. All doors secured - SET & CHECK
5. Seats, steering position, mirrors and seat belts adjusted - SET & CHECK 6. Pressure on the foot brake - SET
7. Ignition on - SET
8. Fuel gauge rising, warning lamps are illuminated - CHECK
9. Depressing foot brake, and starting engine - SET
10. All warning lamps extinguished - CHECK
11. All instruments functioning - CHECK
12. Ready to move off - CHECK
13. Select drive, check round car - CHECK
14. Release park brake, foot brake, mirror and shoulder check, indicator signal and move off
15. Moving brake test 20 mph - CHECK
16. Seat belt lock up functioning - CHECK
Hopefully, you are now safer and fitter to drive. Safe controlled driving to you all, and talk yourself into talking.
This is the first in a series of five articles that deal with defensive driving techniques. Contributed by Gordon Booth, Team Corvette member and Chief Instructor of Drivetrain Inc. based in San Jose California. We published Gordon's earlier article "Driving or Car Control" in the June 2001 issue of the "Team Corvette" magazine.
Until fairly recently, racecar drivers were viewed as just that - drivers. The question of a comfortable environment was never addressed until someone concluded that a comfortable driver was going to be a more focused and a better, maybe faster driver. Real life has proven this to be true. After all, in your everyday life, a comfortable seat makes a difference in your ability to concentrate.
So, what has this to do with driving your car better and more safely? The answer is that if you are focused, you are going to be a better, safer driver. The seating position should be with the back of the seat slightly reclined, maybe one or two notches from the vertical. Your legs should have a 60-80 degree bend at the knee.
Your hand positioning is easy to set. When you get into your vehicle, put your wrists on top of the steering wheel. They should be at the top of the wheel at the 12 o'clock position, with the wheel 1/2-1 1/2" behind the wrist joint. Some drivers like the wrists to just "cut" the top of the steering wheel. Try to find you most comfortable position that gives you the required wheel authority.
If you are now leaning forward, move your seat up to achieve both the wrist and knee bent positioning. Together the position should be comfortable and relaxed. I really can't stress the importance of taking time to get this right. Your arms should have an 80-90 degree bend at the elbow once you have settled in. You will probably be somewhat nearer the wheel than customary for you, but try it both on short and longer journeys. Correct seat placement, along with steering wheel adjustment should ensure that you are in the correct position for a safe controlled drive.
The benefit of this positioning is in the event of a crash, your arms and legs will act as shock absorbers - they can move up and back. Put another way, if your arms and legs are straight, any energy from a head-on crash is going to transfer directly to your hip joint, as well as to your shoulder socket. The additional benefit is that you have improved steering wheel authority, and therefore, increased car control. Let's turn to your hand positioning on the wheel. This is one subject that just about everyone has a strong opinion on - and they are all different! If your question is " What is the one hand position I should use?" I would reply "There is no one position!" I can hear the gasps now.
I have found the combined effect of the seat position, particularly as it relates to your arm angle, plus hand positioning on the wheel, become vital to effective steering control and authority and therefore to car control.
The most universally accepted is 9 to 3, however one hears of police forces suggesting 7 to 5, 8 to 4 and more. My own opinion is that anything less than 9 to 3 and you probably have reduced your steering authority by 80%. Never ever "just" put one arm or both arms completely through the steering wheel. This is simply downright dangerous since it offers no steering authority in the event of avoiding a collision, and to have any effect, you would have to move your hands on to the actual wheel. It is also an easy way of breaking wrists and arms if a curb or pothole is hit. In heavy town traffic, I use 9 to 3. The primary reason is that if I have to execute a major traffic avoidance procedure, I can get rapid and at least half a lock of turn on the wheel before moving my hands. It is highly effective when someone "suddenly" comes out of a driveway or a parking lot.
On the freeway I prefer the 10 to 2 or 9 to 3. The 10 to 2 gives good authority and is a natural and relaxed position. The determinate is the density of the traffic around me. On fast flowing open roads, I will even go to 11 to 1. The basis of this being that the car is going to go where you eyes are looking, and on a open flowing road you can look well ahead. With this you should be able to achieve a smooth drive with good car balance. If combined with throttle finesse and sensitivity, you will find your braking action is substantially reduced. You will know how you are doing, because if it is right, you will feel great - and so will your passengers!
Let's go back to town driving for a moment. Yes we are at 9 to 3, but we have to execute a turn in two blocks - what then? Again this depends on how you steer. If you use rotational steering or the pull/push method, consider this option. I always use pull and push since it gives greater wheel control, providing your hands do not drop below 9 to 3. We know that right hand turns are harder to make because of the reduced radius of the corner. Left-hand turns are easier, but the downside is having to face and cross over oncoming traffic.
The objective of cornering is to achieve a smooth, continuous movement around the radius of the corner, and end in the correct position of the exit road.
Starting with the right hand turn. Your hands are at 9 to 3. You approach the turn, mirror check, indicate, and move into position, brake to get your speed down to the appropriate level for the corner - feel those brakes biting. Make a conscious point of not going for secondary braking. Get the job done the first time. If you drive a manual car select the correct gear - probably either 2nd or even 1st. Move your right hand to the 12 o'clock position, your left hand to either 9 or maybe 8 depending on the severity of the corner. Approaching the corner, you are now signaling, doing another mirror check - rear view and right hand