Most of the advice I formerly posted was "life saving" and discussed what to do and not to do in order to avoid serious collisions. We have covered emergencies, including sudden stops, head-on collisions and skids, as well as covered a seating position that would increase control and decrease reaction times. We moved on to describe the matter of everyday driving and how to drive in order to anticipate and avoid little or big hazards. I illustrated what never to do on the road, etc...
This next post refers to something that, with all due respect to my own teachings, is probably not going to be as crucial for safe driving. However, it does help and it makes the driving more EFFECTIVE which is what we are ultimately striving for. I'm talking about how to use the steering wheel. You might be surprised, but I personally know about 20 different styles and schools of thought relative to steering methods.
So why is it important?
Over the years, I have compared the different approaches and saw the differences. I have two conclusions: The first is that however trivial it might sound, proper steering control can contribute to safety and efficiency quite a lot! The second conclusion was that a specific steering style is usually the best, and this is what I'm going to "teach" you right now.
This method is originally a method used in rallying. We at the Israeli driving schools (following several driving schools at France) have adopted it as a method for all types of driving and all types of situations, and found it extremely effective. Upon instructing people, I see them waste time and effort on turning the wheel in a bad way, particularly by splitting the rotation of the wheel into a series of little hand movements, rather than steering with one large movement. A shame.
It all begins with your posture
I will begin by alluding the subject of the seating position: Unless you have the seat adjusted properly (as I described in an earlier thread) no steering style will feel natural. I can briefly summarize two important aspects:
- Adjust the seat perpendicularly so that you right foot can depress the brakes fully (after starting the engine) while still keeping the knee bent at about 120 degrees.
- Than, adjust the seat's back so that you can place your wrist directly over the steering wheel without effort and without stretching the shoulder blades out of the seat.
These tips will allow you to be close enough to the controls so that you don't need to stretch limbs to get to them and your body remains fully in the seat while only the feet and arms work on the wheel/pedals.
The third point is the hands on the wheel. The hands need grip the wheel in no where other than 9 and 3, which is horizontally over the wheel. Normally, this is the point where the spokes contact the rim of the wheel, and they form comfortable sockets where you can place your thumbs.
At 9 and 3, unlike positions like 10 to-2, you can turn the wheel a lot by what is called "fixed input" steering. Fixed input is the most simple way of steering. You grip the wheel at 9 and 3 and just turn it with both hands. Go out and try it and you will find out that with hands at 9 and 3, you can reach a total of 270 degrees of steering in one "go."
The abstract of the steering technique
This steering technique is one of the techniques known as "predictive steering." I will explain with an example: You drive in winding mountain road. You enter a curve which seems not to sharp, but it is blind because the mountainside prevents you from seeing all the way through it. Mid-corner, you find that the bend tightens up to a much sharper line. You need more steering, but trying to apply more steering in action becomes awkward. Why?
Because most people don't steer predictively (well, most people don't drive predictively at all, which is the real problem). They put their hands in a certain position and than turn the wheel, so that mid corner the hands are out of place. Predictive steering goes about it the other way around: You see the corner coming up, you asses how much steering it's going to take, and you prepare your hands so that, inside the corner after turning, your hands return to the basic position of 9 and 3.
When your hands return to 9 and 3 mid-corner, they allow you to grip the wheel more comfortable and with more feel, as well as to make steering corrections to each direction, if the corner is tighten/wider or if you come across a certain "surprise" along the way. In other words, we want to keep our hands at 9 and 3 for as long as possible.
One technique is to predictively relocate both hands. This is not the method I teach, but will describe it first, for you to get a better idea of the concept: I am gripping the wheel at 9 and 3. I'm reaching a corner to the right which I assume would require turning the wheel 90 degrees. So, I relocate both my hands 90 degrees to the LEFT (placing one hand ontop of the wheel and one under it), and than turn the wheel into the corner and, after turning the wheel, my hands are magically back at 9 and 3.
The method I suggest is more refined in that you don't have to relocate both hands. You relocate one hand, and keep the other hand stationary. This gives you several advantages, which we will not delve into right now. So, for the same bend, I would slide my right hand 90 degrees "up" (to the left) to 12 O'Clock on the wheel, while keeping the left hand stationary. I than pull the wheel right, while the left hand allows the rim to run under it's fingers.
After turning 90 degrees, the right hand magically returns to where it came from, and my hands are at 9 and 3 again, as if the wheel is straight, only that it is not, it's in fact turned into the corner. Now, my hands are in a natural posture and ready to tackle anything that might appear mid-corner by turning the wheel in either direction with both hands (fixed input).
Near the end of the corner, we need to straighten the wheel. For straightening it, we don't just let the wheel slide or "push" it back, we do the exact same thing we did turning in, just the other way around. For turning in, we relocated the right hand 90 degrees left and pulled it back to the right. For turning back, we relocate the left hand to the top of the wheel and pull back, which again brings our hands back to 9 and 3.
The great thing about this technique is that it can also be used for bigger inputs. In most cars, a turn that requires turning the wheel 90 degrees (as I described above) would represent wide bends on rural roads, or wide left-hand turns at intersections. However, there are tighter corners, specifically your typical right-hand corners at residential areas. This turns are twice as sharp and require turning the wheel 180 degrees (half a turn of the wheel).
For this input, you relocate your right hand 180 degrees the LEFT, which ends up in placing the hand on the other side of the wheel, just above the stationary hand. While it might feel a bit awkward at first, it allows to take such a corner with a single hand movement and while keeping the hands at 9 and 3 for as long as possible inside the corner. Remember that near the end of the corner, you need to do the same with your left hand, relocate it to the right, and pull the wheel back.
But what about sharper corners? Some corners at urban districts require 270 degrees of lock (3/4 of a turn of the wheel). How to negotiate those? Well, in the same way. How? Well, if the corner requires 270 degrees of steering say to the right, than we would relocate the hand 270 degrees to the left. We can than turn the wheel back 270 degrees to the right and, when last I checked 270-270=0, so the hand returns to 9 or 3 accordingly and, after turning the wheel, we return to the 9 to position. Simple!
The way of doing this might feel strange at first, but it gets natural with practice. You actually need to place your hand under the stationary hand, right at the bottom of the wheel (6 O'Clock). You still need to be actually gripping the wheel, so you actually have to place your hand "upside down." Like I said, this might feel strange, but with practice it becomes natural.
Now, you can pull the wheel back and all the way around a full 270 degrees with one hand movement! The only "problem" of students is to get the pulling hand under the stationary hand. With practice, the stationary hand just allows the pulling hand to run under it's fingers along with the wheel.
Turning the wheel a full 360 degrees, say, to the left, is also possible. You slide the RIGHT hand down a bit and you press the right palm againt the wheel and rotate it so that the fingers are pointing down. You than turn the wheel 90 degrees, and you will find that your right hand is in position to perform a pull of 270 degrees of steering and complete a full turn of 360 degrees over all.
I used to teach another technique used when you need to turn a lot of steering quickly, but another instructor lately showed me how, by repetitively performing pulls of 270 degrees in a fluent succession, the wheel can be turned from full right to full left very quickly (a matter of two seconds or so!) and with precision!
Another thing you can do with this steering style is to turn the wheel precisely during a set of successive corners. Say you have two linked curves, one is 90 degrees right and the other is 180 degrees left. We first relocate the right hand and pull the wheel 90 degrees right. We than relocate the left hand to pull 270 degrees left. 270-90=180. And than all we need to do at the end of the corner is relocate the right hand and pull back 180 degrees. It might sound complex, but with this method the two bends were negotiated with merely three hand movements and we "earned" a lot of time inside the corners with our hands at 9 and 3.
There is another advantage to using this technique in general and it is that by using the "inside" hand to "pull" the wheel rather than push it from across, provides more sensitivity and less physical effort. Pushing involves using upper body strength (deltoideus, Pectoralis, Dorsi, Trapesus, biceps, palm) where pulling uses the muscles of the arm itself (biceps, triceps, forearm muscles, fingers) which, according to the motor homoculus, are more sensitive.
This is a bit complex, so you can use this thread to ask me whatever questions that might come up during practice, and even use pictures and videos for input. Anyhow, here are some videos on how it's done:
Very well explained and the pictures are very helpful too.
wow! So, you actually know 20 different styles of steering? In England, they teach us the basic 'pull and push' method of steering, and no one can pass a driving test without having learnt it first. But here I see, you have explained other ways too... which might give much better control.
There are many techniques. "Push Pull" is one of them (taught in England and South Africa), but it's just one variant of a method called "Shuffle steering", that also appears in other forms. There are techniques called Rotational or hand-over-hand steering, predictive steering by relocating both hands. There are other methods too.
It's best to take the car to a lot and practice the hand movements. It's worth mentioning that these techniques are best applied when the car is not stationary, but rolling slightly. I suggest you go out and practice and than tell me the results. It might be a bit hard at first and there are also other variations. To ingrain this technique so that it becomes part of your natural driving takes even more time, but it really helps.
I see, but which technique do you personally recommend the most? Also, I fear that I will focus so much on the way my hands are placed on the steering, that I will stop looking ahead and actually end up crashing the car!
The technique which I recommend is the technique I illustrated in the posts above. In order to incorporate it into your driving, without risking a crash, you can begin with trying it while moving around at an empty lot. After getting the hands to do it good and proper for two-three times, you can apply it safely on the road.
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