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Getting a grip on driving

Published:Sunday | February 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Paul Messam, Gleaner Writer

Our hands speak volumes. In fact, writer Henry Theodore Tuckerman said the hand is the mind's only perfect vassal.

Our grip on the vehicle's steering wheel is extremely important. Just think of the steering wheel as the face of a clock.

"In defensive driving, the driver should keep the left hand at the nine to 10 position and the right hand at two to three," said Kurt Harding, a St Andrew-based mechanic.

According to Harding, a driver's grip on the steering wheel should be firm but not too tight.

"All drivers should keep both hands on the wheel at all times, except when shifting gears or giving a necessary hand signal."

Hand signals should supplement the turn indicators wherever possible. This is especially vital when making right-hand turns, where danger exists from both oncoming and overtaking traffic.

It is advised if a motorist is making a turn on a slippery, deserted road, that he place both hands on the wheels rather than one waving out the window at non-existent traffic. However, in any situation where another driver might not understand your movements, it is wise to use both hand and light signals.

The mechanic describes some driving skills that drivers should acquire:

1 Keep your steering movement steady and smooth.

2 Place your hands on the steering wheel in a position which is comfortable and which gives the driver full control at all times.

3 Take the corners more slowly and cautiously when you do not have the benefit of power assistance.

Steer clear of the following:

1 Avoid turning the steering wheel too early when taking a turn. If this happens, you could run the risk of cutting the corner and striking the kerb when turning left.

2 Avoid turning too late, as this action could place other road users at risk.

3 Avoid allowing the wheel to spin back after turning.

4 Avoid resting arms on the doors. The stability of the vehicle can be affected by cornering too quickly.

5 Avoid crossing your hands on the steering wheel whenever possible.

Drivers must be aware of the importance of keeping their hands clean.

"Clean hands save lives" was a message by the health ministry, carried by Dr Sonia Copeland, acting director of health promotion and protection last year.

"Proper hand-washing must involve the use of soap and safe water. The hands are the common factor in the transmission of many diseases, whether air-borne, food-borne or by close contact," said Dr Copeland in her message for Global Hand-washing Day, which was observed last year.