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MG MGA - Hands On The Steering Wheel

Should you always have both hands on the steering wheel? I apologise if this is not MGA specific but it is some thing that has been in our teaching since the origins of the driving test and something that has bugged me for ages.

I watched a recent programme on 100 year olds being tested for competency and the reprimand came up occasionally: "Both hands on the wheel please".

I readily appreciate that in the old days of ropey bumpy roads, combined with basic Ackerman steering with the worm and peg steering box you would need both hands on the massive steering wheel to keep some sort of controlled progress. But times have changed. The MGA and cars since then have better engineered rack and pinion boxes. With power steering it's even easier. Brute force and a steadying arm is no longer always necessary. Yet instructors, examiners, etc still tell us to grip with both hands. So I ask the question. Why?

...and I think I can speak with reasonable experience, having driven supersonic fighter jets with great accuracy, including formation one handed for 25 years.

What is it that one hand cannot do? Is it time for instruction to reflect what is needed now, not 70 years ago?

Steve Gyles


Given the current state of our pot-holed roads, I think it's a good idea to keep two hands on the wheel.

Also, if something suddenly happens in front of you, I think it easier to take evasive action with two hands.
Dave O'Neill 2

Two hands on the steering wheel keeps you from texting or talking on the it's still a good idea.

Gene Gillam

Because if your left hand isn't on the wheel you are limited in how far you can turn the wheel to the right and vice versa - flying is NOT the same, you don't need such large movements unless you want to spin out of the sky ...
Chris at Octarine Services

All you need is a necker knob for the left hand, so your right hand is free for more important things.

Two hands for me-
Behind every bouncing ball is a child-!!!!!
Be prepared at all times
William Revit

Gene - "Two hands on the steering wheel keeps you from texting or talking on the it's still a good idea."

Washington State just passed a law that any cellphone/handheld computer must be in a holder. Anyone caught holding a phone in their hand gets a ticket.
DW DuBois

I probably did not explain myself all that well. Like all you above I drive with both hands on the wheel probably 99% of the time, particularly in towns and winding roads etc. But what I was questioning was why it should be almost written into law or enforced accepted practice to do so. On the occasions when it's a 'relaxing' road environment my other hand is milliseconds from taking the wheel. But I guess my reactions are still a good deal faster than most of my age, so I concede you have to take account of Mr/Ms Average.

A classic example of time reaction was when I was faced with ejecting 40 years ago. A series of considerations went through my mind after my nav ejected following my aircraft going out of control due to a control malfunction. I knew he had ejected only when I saw a ball of flame in my left rear view mirror. In the board of Inquiry I stated I probably went out about 4 seconds later. Wrong. Evidence showed I pulled the handle (located on the seat between the legs) 1/4 to 1/2 second after he pulled his. And prior to that 1/2 second I had one hand on the control column and the other on the throttles pulling them out of reheat.

My angle was more aimed at the better engineered steering systems these days, than the agricultural steering of yesteryear when both hands and a lot of muscle were required to guide the vehicle on some sort of controlled straight line. There is, for example, no technical reason why modern cars could not dispense with the steering wheel altogether and instead have a drive-by-wire side stick mounted on the centre tunnel console for LHD cars or on a door shelf for RHD. In fact I believe it has already been trialled.

I was purely trying to raise the issue of old laws/accepted practices not being updated for the modern day.


Steve Gyles

Necker knobs were used on American cars because there were so many turns of the steering wheel to go from full left hand steering lock to full right hand steering lock.
So many turns that you thought you were winding up a clockwork spring to get them going.

M F Anderson

It is the police system and also used by the IAM - both hands on the wheel unless changing gear, signalling etc - greater control etc etc.
Those steering wheel knobs were known as wrist/thumb breakers weren't they?
Cam Cunningham

I wonder If anyone has analysed what proportion of any journey HAS to be spent with only one hand on the wheel. Changing gear, signalling, setting cruise control, flipping the O/D switch, dipping headlights, radio tuning, scratching your ear, etc.. Then there are the smokers!!!!
Would be interesting.

Bearing this in mind one would assume modern automatics would be safer, no gear changing and more controls grouped on the wheel itself!
Allan Reeling

.....and I bet it takes longer to transfer the throttle foot across to the brake pedal and apply than to put the other hand back on the wheel.
Steve Gyles


You forgot to mention those that seem incapable of driving along a motorway without clutching their Costa coffee cup.

I was amazed to see that some motorway service areas even have a drive-through Starbucks!
Dave O'Neill 2

Yep forgot that one Dave, notice I didn't mention the texting issue, rummaging in the glove box or, more commonly, blowing your nose!!!
Allan Reeling

Yes, both hands on the wheel. A fighter jet is designed to be handled with one hand but a car is not. The steering wheel requires significant rotational movement in an emergency situation which would be seriously limited with one hand, not to mention the partial loss of control due the inside arm twisting around upside down without the other arm to take up the slack.

Having to move one arm up to the wheel, grab hold and then start an emergency maneuver (or to react to a blowout, etc) takes longer than we realize. And if you have a drink or other item in your other hand then the natural reaction is to NOT drop that item, even though it's the right thing to do.
Steve Simmons

I obviously still have not got my opening points across very well. I am not advocating one handed steering as the normal, but quite simply the legalities concerning the occasions when one hand is not on the wheel. For much of the time modern power assisted steering does not require 2 hands to hold it steady. Yes, I agree that best practice is for them both to be there but it should not be held against a driver for not being in full control if only one hand is there at a particular moment

Compare it with cars of yesteryear when the 10-to-2 hand positions became the road test examiner's norm and you were not supposed to cross over hands when turning, instead pass the wheel through your hands. Why was this? I suggest it was because the steering mechanisms were so rubbish and heavy you needed your hands in that position all of the time to provide the leverage to hold the vehicle steady. Not so these days. You can hold the wheel between 2 fingers and spin it round with the index finger against a spoke. So, why are we regulated by rules that were designed for a past era of vehicle engineering and road surfaces?

I am not saying we all drive around with one hand. What I have been trying to put across is that we deregulate the need for both hands to be seen on the steering all the time.

Steve Gyles

I don't believe there should be a law against EVER taking one hand off the wheel. But I have no problem with a law that states you must use two hands whenever possible.

I regularly see people traveling 80+MPH with only one wrist on top of the wheel and their seat reclined back. So even though it's common sense to use two hands and therefore a law shouldn't be required to keep people from risking other other's lives, there are also plenty of stupid people who need laws to keep them (and those around them) alive.
Steve Simmons

Many years ago I was terrified as a passenger in a Mini when the driver used his knees to steer while he read a newspaper ......

Just because it is POSSIBLE to do something doesn't mean it is wise to do it.

I still drive with hands at ten to two and pass the wheel from hand to hand on corners cos that's the way I was taught and still believe is the safest way - my everyday car is an auto and all controls, including the radio & sat nav are on the wheel, so having put the car into drive and taken the handbrake off there is no need to take my hands off the wheel.

Deregulation takes up as much time and expense as regulation so I have no problem with old regulations staying on the books. especially if they are doing no harm..
Chris at Octarine Services

Saw the same yesterday
A blonde fluzey coming the other way on the road in her 4x4 just out of the school zone with a phone stuck in her ear with one hand and fiddling with her hair with the other
Don't know what was steering but she was scooting along with school kids everywhere
Sent a shivver through me
I'm a 10-2 driver, always have been but my Golf has converted me to 9-3 just through the design of the steering wheel--Strangely it's taken me ages to get used to it but after 300000 ks it's the norm now
William Revit

If I ever need to eject from the cockpit I think the extra fraction of a second to move my hand from steering wheel to door pull will not make much diferance to my fate !!
A J Dee

This thread was discussed between 15/11/2017 and 22/11/2017

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