Electronic Design

What’s All This Driving One-Handed Stuff, Anyhow?

The other day, I was shooting the breeze with a colleague who has his private pilot’s license. And he mentioned, “But of course, a pilot has to be able to fly well with one hand.”

I thought about that. Naturally, he was right. A pilot has so many things to do—adjust radios, adjust trim tabs, hold and fold up maps, etc. A pilot should be prepared to fly with both hands in special cases. But keeping the plane flying smooth and level (or as required) is something a pilot should be able to do well one-handed—and with either hand.

There are many respects where driving a car is different from flying a plane (narrow lanes, 2D versus 3D, etc.), but we don’t have to worry about these differences. The main point is that any good driver should be able to drive a car with one hand, a lot of the time, and drive with two hands for special occasions. In severe curves, where the precision of positioning the wheels gets important, and your body mass is trying to move around a lot, there’s a good case.

I have corresponded with a guy who is an expert with the Institute for Advanced Motoring in the U.K. I once tried to get in, but you basically have to give up your U.S. driver’s license and get a U.K. license. Not so likely.

One of the Institute’s books says a good driver should not try to shift up while accelerating in a curve. That made me chuckle. If you are accelerating hard and approaching the redline, why would you not shift up? I disagreed with the Institute on several other matters too.

Taking A Test Drive

So I began to think. How would I do driving one-handed for a large while? Like, could I drive home one-handed? I mean, any 20-second or 60-second stretch would not be too hard. My commute is just a total of about 45 miles and a few dozen curves and several corners.

I put my left hand in my lap and started to drive home. With a little planning ahead, I had no problem doing this. When I got to a corner, I remembered to not be pushy. I also used my knee to trap the wheel as I reached for a better position with my right hand.

How about shifting? This, of course, is a 1969 Beetle. Yes, I know how to shift it without using the clutch at all, but I didn’t fool around with that. I just did a quick shift (depress the clutch for about a quarter of a second) and shifted away while I was on a straight road—not hard.

Anybody behind me would not have noticed anything odd. I kept my left hand ready to help, though, in case of a problem. But I never had any problem. I got home fine.

The next day, could I drive to work using only my left hand? I set my right hand in my lap and had no problems. And I never did it again, as I established this was quite feasible.

I remember a story about a guy up in Idaho who had cut his arm very badly. He got his 11-year-old son to drive him 35 miles to the hospital. That was wise, as passing out from lack of blood is a bad idea. I read that the kid learned fast!

Anyway, always driving with both hands on the wheel is almost as silly as never using both hands. How do you scratch your itchy nose?

For more of Bob's columns, go to What's All This Double-Clutching Stuff, Anyhow?

What's All This VW Stuff, Anyhow?

What's All This Circuits-In-Your-Car Stuff, Anyhow?

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