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Ask a Driving Instructor

Whether you are learner driver or an experienced motorist, you can email any driving-related question to info@wycombedrivingschool.co.uk and you will receive a personal response from Wycombe Driving School boss Audrey Wixon, pictured. The best questions and answers will be published on this website anonymously.

Audrey is a DSA ADI; DIAmond, IAM and RoSPA Gold Advanced Driver; Fleet Trainer; Observer for Institute of Advanced Motorists; & National Standard cycling instructor

Audrey Wixon - manager of Wycombe Driving School
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Does it really matter if I cross my hands?

Q: For my driving test I was told not to cross my hands when steering but everyone I know does it. For years I have crossed hands, palmed the wheel around with one hand, let it spin back, steered with one finger low on the wheel and so on - all without incident. So why are we taught to steer like we’re knitting a jumper?
car steering wheel A: If you have steered sloppily without incident for a long time then you have been lucky and long may your luck continue. But as driving is probably the most dangerous thing you do day to day, surely it makes sense to try and eliminate as much risk as possible by conforming to best practise?

Feeding the steering wheel from hand to hand like you did on your driving test is safer than crossing hands because it allows you to keep two hands on the wheel at all times.

Let me illustrate that point. Imagine you are crossing your hands to steer left into a narrow side road. Your right hand has steered as far left as it will go and your left hand is now reaching over to grab the top of the wheel. Then you hit a pothole. With your right hand at an awkward angle, the jolt knocks it off the steering wheel and with no hands on the wheel, the car naturally swings back to the right - straight into a traffic bollard. It happens.

Not only is pull-push safer than crossing hands or palming, it is slower too, and this facilitates a smoother style of driving. Drivers who swing into side roads fast, tipping their car off balance, could not do this so easily if they had to shuffle the wheel from hand to hand.

Allowing the wheel spin back is also a symptom of taking a turn too fast, or steering back too late. Good speed judgement and forward planning should eliminate the need to resort to such methods.

Having said that, there is a time and place for crossing hands. For example, it would be easier and faster to use rotational steering when manoeuvring your car in a tight spot. If your hands slipped, the risk would be minimal due to your slow speed.

But steering with one finger low on the wheel is downright dangerous, even if you have a straight road ahead. Your hands should be in the ten to two or quarter to three positions, where they are best placed to immediately pull down either left or right in an emergency. Imagine that you suddenly need to swerve to avoid a suitcase that has fallen off the roof rack of the car in front. Pulling down on the wheel would be much more natural and controllable than pushing up from a low grip – especially if you only have the power of one finger!

Even if you do not accept the safety issues above, why not try returning to pull-push to see if it has any effect on the smoothness of your ride? I bet your passengers notice a difference.
Audrey Wixon
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Wycombe Driving School - for driving lessons in High Wycombe and surrounding areas - including Amersham, Beaconsfield, Marlow, Hazlemere, Stokenchurch and Princes Risborough. We offer successful, structured driving lessons, providing free theory test software and lesson handouts. Male and female driving instructors are available, providing both manual and automatic driving lessons.