Dear Car Talk:
This is not a car question as much as it is a husband question. My husband insists that it’s safe to drive, even on highways at highway speed, with just one index finger curled around the steering wheel. Driving with him can be positively scary. Can you please set him straight? Thank you! — Annie (P.S. Please don’t use my name because he will be very embarrassed if this shows up in our local newspaper.)
OK, Lisa, we signed you “Annie,” which is short for “Anonymous.” And we certainly won’t mention Fred’s name.
“One-finger driving” works fine. Until it doesn’t. With one finger, on most cars, you can hold the steering wheel in its current position, and keep the car going straight. The problem comes when you suddenly need to do something other than go straight. For instance, when a 40-ton semi carrying pig iron suddenly changes lanes into yours, not realizing you’re there. Can you swerve out of the way and avoid an accident with one finger? No.
Or let’s say someone stops short in front of you, and you can’t stop in time. Can you steer off to the side of the road with one finger to avoid bashing into the guy? No. If you hit a huge pothole and your wheels pull toward the other lane of traffic, are you going to be able to bring those wheels back with one finger? No.
Or let’s say you’re one-fingering down the road and you see a sale at Lumber Liquidators. Are you going to be able to pull over in time to get the 4-inch reclaimed oak prefinished flooring for $2.99 a square foot? Doubt it.
So you’re right to be scared, Annie. While what he’s doing will be fine 99 percent of the time, your husband is endangering you, and other people on the road, by not being ready for the unexpected. And that’s the real key to driving safely.
So, try to convince him to shape up, Annie. Ask him if he’d be comfortable riding in a bus with a driver who had one finger on the wheel. Or flying in a plane with a pilot who lands his 737 with one finger on the controls. Or eating in a restaurant where an employee didn’t wash both hands, but just washed one finger.
I hope he’s willing to change his behavior, Annie. If not, write back with his license plate number and we’ll encourage everyone who drives by him to remind him of this advice by saluting him — with just one finger.
Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.