Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Air bags change ideal
car-steering technique

Question: My daughter came back from driver's education class and was told she will not pass the road test if she doesn't "push and pull" the steering wheel rather than going hand over hand. And she has to hold it at the 8 o'clock and 4 o'clock position. Why is this so? I drive all over the world and have no problem with how to hold the steering wheel. What can we do to help our daughter?

Answer: The "push-and-pull" technique actually has been around for quite a while, but apparently has become the recommended way to use the steering wheel with the development of air bags.

The American Driver & Traffic Safety Education Association advises drivers education instructors to teach the "push-and-pull" technique as a safety measure, said Joanne Swearingen, the Department of Education's state program manager for drivers ed.

The idea is to keep your hands away from the front of the air bag, explained Fred Nagao, president of the Hawaii Association of Safety Traffic Educators and a drivers ed teacher at Farrington High School.

In the event of an accident, with your hands held the old recommended way, the air bag would propel your hands like a weapon toward you, he explained.

That's the primary reason for the technique being recommended by ADTSEA, he said.

But Nagao said there are several other reasons why it makes more sense.

One is to give you more control of the steering wheel. If you drive hand over hand, "sometimes you'd be driving with only one hand on the wheel. With the push-pull method, about 99 percent of the time, you'd have both hands on the wheel," he said.

And, he added, you'd never cross your hands in front of your face.

Regarding putting your hands at the 8 and 4 o'clock position, "If you put your hands at the 9 and 3 position, you can feel the tension in your forearm," Nagao said. "Drop it to 8 and 4, it becomes more relaxing. The idea is that if it's more relaxing, the ride becomes more enjoyable."

Q: Regarding Monday's "Kokua Line" item about the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund, I called Bank of Hawaii, and they claim their company still continues to collect the fees. Is that right?

A: Bank of Hawaii says it stopped collecting those fees as it was supposed to last year.

Monday's column quoted Lloyd Lim, the hurricane relief fund's acting executive director, as saying that no "intermediary" should be collecting special mortgage recording as of July 1, 2001, and property and casualty premium assessments as of Oct. 1. That's when the fund, which terminated its insurance operations last year, stopped collecting the fees.

Lim advises homeowners who had insurance with the state fund to contact the institutions -- not his office -- that had been collecting the fees.

Bank of Hawaii officially stopped collecting the relief fund fees on homeowners insurance and commercial accounts as of July 1 and Oct. 1, respectively, said spokesman Stafford Kiguchi.

"We do have a checks-and-balance system whereby the account is 'flagged' should an attempt be made to erroneously charge a customer's account after those dates," he said.

Additionally, staff was notified of the change in advance of the implementation dates, he said. "To date, we haven't had any indication that customers had been charged the fee."

That all said, Kiguchi said a mistake could have occurred, in which case, "we want to make sure it gets corrected."

If any customer has been charged erroneously, call 851-9206, "and we can arrange for reimbursement," he said.

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