Think it’s okay to have one hand on the wheel and the other out the window? Think again.

  • You are supposed to drive with both hands on the wheel at all times
  • Driving with one hand limits your car control
  • There are fines and penalties, Australia-wide

In fact, think again before you reach into the passenger’s footwell to get your bag. Or to touch the media screen to change the map view. Or to do basically anything that requires you to take one of your hands off the wheel.

That’s because, Australia-wide, the rules are basically the same. You should have both hands on the wheel at all times.

Now, that’s a big should. Because obviously you have to take one hand off to adjust the wipers, or turn on the headlights, change gears, change the radio station, adjust the climate control, or do any of the other simple, mundane things we all do dozens of times when we drive without even noticing.

You control what the car does with your hands and feet, right? So, it makes perfect sense that the laws are there to help you stay in as much control of the car as possible.

By keeping both of your hands on the wheel, in the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock position (or the 10 and 2, depending on your age, and the age of your teacher), and with the backs of your hands facing you (so you’re not gripping the steering wheel from ‘behind’), you are going to be in better control.

The reason for that positioning of your hands is because, essentially, you could be more severely injured in an accident if you’re not holding the wheel in the right spot.

If you hold the wheel under-handed, you could break your wrists or dislocate your shoulders if you’re involved in an accident. The safest thing to do is hold the wheel correctly, and keep your hands on the rim as much as possible.

If you’ve watched Supercars racing series, you’ll have seen that some driver’s often let their hands rest on the gear shifter for decent stretches of time – but they’re professional drivers, and you don’t (often) see them waving their arms out the window (unless they win a race) or reaching for their phone… which is also illegal.

Say you are partly incapacitated – maybe you’ve got an injured or broken finger, hand, wrist or arm – you should check with a GP before you take to the road. They may give you clearance to drive, or may tell you to catch the bus. 

If you are found to be driving one-handed without a reasonable excuse, then you could be hit with penalties or fines, depending on the state and the circumstances. It’s a decent whack, too – between $425 and $531, not to mention 3 to 4 demerit points. 

And guess what? If you have any part of your body outside of the car – say, your right arm hanging out the window while you’re driving – you could end up in court, and a magistrate could impose a penalty in excess of $2200 in NSW.

There have been examples of drivers being fined for this in other states, too – a Victorian man was fined $155 for dangling his arm out the window while driving. The fine is now an on-the-spot penalty of $165 in Vic.

Suffice to say, keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road will make you a safer driver.

Not intended as legal advice. Check with the relevant roads authority in your state or territory.

Matt Campbell
Matt Campbell is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
Buy and Lease
Uncover exclusive deals and discounts with a VIP referral to Australia's best dealers
Uncover exclusive deals and discounts with a VIP referral to Australia's best dealers
Also on CarExpert