Is Driving a Car Difficult for a Left-Handed Person?
Although I, like many people, am right-handed, I’ve often wondered if driving a car is different for a left-handed person than it is for a right-handed driver. Are there aspects of the driver’s console that have been optimized more for right-handed drivers? Are left-handers at an advantage when driving on the right side of the road? Is learning to drive more challenging for southpaws?
As International Lefthanders Day is coming up (August 13th), it’s time to answer these questions and discover the secrets of left-handed drivers.
Figuring Out Who’s “Right”
After scouring online forums, studies, and personal testimonies, I realized something: simply asking “Is it harder for left-handers to drive cars?” is a challenging question to answer accurately. Since almost all people are only left- or right-handed, comparing both types’ the personal experiences is purely subjective. Most opinions are either:
- “I am left-handed, and learning to drive was difficult for me, thus learning to drive is difficult for all left-handers because of being left-handed.”
- “I am left-handed, and learning to drive was not difficult for me, thus being left-handed has no affect on anyone’s ability to drive.”
Either way, belief is driven by personal experience.
That bias is also prevalent in studies. A lot of “research”—both authentic and bogus—has been published over the years that link being left-handed to a variety of conditions and traits—from being better thinkers to having higher anxiety. How much of it is actually accurate is up for debate, but many of these studies already have preconceived hypotheses to prove.
What Studies Say
Two prevalent studies are notable for addressing this topic.
- A 1991 study from the University of British Columbia concluded that lefties are more likely to die earlier, especially behind the wheel. This conclusion has since been challenged by other studies.
- A 2008 AA Driving School survey based on YouGov statistics asserting that more left-handed students pass the driving exam on their first attempt than right-handed students do (by 10%).
Studies like these point out trends, but don’t necessarily differentiate correlation from causation. In general, it’s difficult to apply the scientific process to testing and gathering unbiased data on this subject since 1) it’s imprecise to base data on participants’ feelings and 2) most records on file don’t note hand dominance.
What People Say
Online, most left-handed drivers don’t claim to have difficulty driving. They point out that they learned to drive using specific hands for specific functions. In other words, once you form a habit using a certain hand to complete a task (like using a turn signal), you get used to doing it that way. And since learning to drive is an entirely new experience, you can program your motions accordingly.
Critics of left-handed favoritism point out the gear shift as an indication of society forcing southpaws to use their non-dominant hand. However, some left-handed drivers actually claim that it’s easier to drive manual cars due to having one’s dominant hand on the steering wheel while the right hand is on the gear shift (it’s easier to shift gears than precisely control a steering wheel).
Infotainment buttons and HVAC controls, which require fine dexterity skills, are mounted on the center console, which does favor right-handed drivers. But, controls are being more frequently mounted on the steering wheel, which is changing this bias. On the other hand, lefties are better-prepared to hand money or receive items through their driver’s side window.
One issue that gets mentioned by left-handed drivers actually involves the legs. Training one’s right leg to use the brake and accelerator pedals rather than the dominant left leg is more challenging, especially since the left leg is supposed to remain inactive while driving.
Now, discussing which side of the road is better to drive on is an entirely different conversation.
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a 1995 Saturn SC-2 (knock on wood). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.