Keep your wheels straight

Jeez, at this rate, most posts this week might be transport-related. (See the cover of the Age this morning?)

Back when I was learning to drive, one of the things that stuck in my head (thanks to Andre the driving instructor) was that when turning right, one should keep the steering wheel in the forward position until actually moving to make the turn. The reason being that if someone smashes into the back of you (particularly a problem if you’re not using a dedicated turning lane, and they weren’t paying attention) you’ll get bumped forward, rather than into the oncoming traffic.

It’s something that’s stuck with me.

Apparently my sister also learnt this, and it’s stayed with her too, because recently she was waiting to turn right, and another car hit her from behind. She rolled forward, rather than into the traffic.

So it really works. It’s good advice, and personally I cringe a little when I see people doing otherwise.

(Thankfully nobody was hurt; but she was shaken, and the students in the bomb that banged into her had insurance issues…)

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

5 replies on “Keep your wheels straight”

I learned that rule too!! Another one that stuck! Good to know there is some consistency in learning to drive…although I suspect if you just go with mum or dad you may miss this important snippet of advice…

Yes I was taught that too but it’s rarely practical and I’ve never seen any research to back it up. A shunt hard enough to break the grip the (braked) wheels have on the road will probably be enough to push the car in the direction in which it is hit, because the front wheels won’t steer much when they’re locked. I’d like to see it tested by Mythbusters…

Suzie, it was a few weeks ago now. (I’ve been sitting on that post.) She’s okay.

Philip, interested to know why you think it’s rarely practical. I manage it for most turns, and certainly always from non-divided roads with no turning lane. Yeah, would be interesting to know the science of it.

My practicality problem comes from my own refusal to turn my wheels if the car isn’t moving at all. I don’t want to put extra stress on the steering, and turning the wheels on a stationary car does that.

So I need to be moving forward ever so slowly while I turn the wheels back to straight ahead after having them turned right to get into position to make a right turn. Often that doesn’t fit into the small space I have available, so I just leave them turned a bit to the right.

Another reason I’ve been reluctant to believe it is that it has come from driving instructors. They, along with driving inspectors, think they know more about cars than anyone else. They fill impressionable young folk with ridiculous and frequently contradictory information and the differences in their various advice cause arguments among ordinary folk later on. But I’ll rant on that at another time.

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