Driving in reverse is an important skill and one that takes practice and expertise. Today, there are more drivers behind the wheel of larger vehicles, such as midsized trucks, minivans, cargo vans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) than ever before. This is very significant, as studies of back over accidents report that as the size of the vehicle increases, so does the likelihood of it being involved in this type of incident.
It is more difficult to perceive and avoid obstacles a driver may come in contact with when driving in reverse. Many backing accidents are caused by poor observation. To help prevent backing accidents that cause injuries and property damage, a driver should know their vehicle’s blind spots and the distance they cover to back up safely.
Drivers must always be alert for people, animals or inanimate objects that are behind them to provide enough time to verify a clear path before putting a vehicle in reverse. If there is any doubt, drivers should get out of their car to check the area to prevent collision or injury to someone behind the vehicle. It is likewise important for drivers to back slowly and be prepared to stop immediately if necessary. Here is a list to share with your drivers as a friendly reminder on preventing backing collisions.
- Get to know a vehicle’s blind spots. Remember that mirrors can never give the whole picture when backing.
- Think in advance. Don’t put yourself in unnecessary backing situations.
- Park defensively. Choose easy-exit parking spaces that don’t crowd neighboring vehicles and park in the center of your parking space.
- If needed, take extra measures when parking in an alley. Again, this involves thinking ahead. If an alley doesn’t permit driving all the way through or room to turn around, you should back into the alley parking space (assuming this complies with local ordinances). In that way, when you leave you are able to drive forward to pull into the street.
- Perform a walk-around. Walking around a vehicle gives you a firsthand view of the backing area and will alert you to any limitations or hazards. Check for children, soft or muddy areas, potholes, tire hazards and other dangers.
- Know the clearances. When performing a walk-around, check for obstructions, low-hanging trees and wires, and any other potential clearance-related problems.
- Remember that every backing situation is new and different. You may back out of the same spot day after day, but don’t allow yourself to get complacent and relax. Be watchful each time for changes and new obstacles.
- Use a spotter. Don’t be afraid to ask for someone’s help when backing, if needed. Use hand signals you’ve both agreed upon. Don’t have the spotter walking backwards while giving instructions.
- After finishing the walk-around, don’t delay. Return to the vehicle and start backing within a few seconds. This will allow very little time for people or obstacles to change behind the vehicle. Backing without a spotter should only take place after you have as much information about the area as possible. A backup alarm can help warn away pedestrians and drivers of other vehicles who may try to enter the area you’re backing into.
- Ensure your mirrors are clean and adjusted to give you the widest possible rear view.
- Tap the horn twice just prior to backing to notify others in the area that your vehicle is backing.
- Roll down the driver’s window so you can hear any warnings, such as a honking horn. Stop immediately if you hear such a warning.
- Keep the backing distance to a minimum.
- Back at a creep/idle speed and cover the brake.
- Back to the driver’s side of the vehicle. This approach will give you a clearer picture of where the vehicle is going. Continually scan the mirrors, look over your left shoulder, and check the swing out of the right front fender as you back.
- If you’re unsure of the clearance around or above the vehicle, secure the vehicle, then exit and look around to ensure the backing path is clear. Check behind, to both sides and above the vehicle.
- If you’re using a spotter, make sure he or she is standing in an area that can be easily seen in the driver’s side mirror. Stop immediately if the spotter cannot be seen. Again, use hand signals you’ve agreed upon, but also make sure the driver’s side window is rolled down so you can hear any verbal instructions or warnings.
Not all car accidents happen at a high speed on the open road. Backing accidents typically occur at very low speeds. It only takes a few extra seconds of caution and preparation to avoid a tragedy that can come from a backing up accident. All drivers must exercise safe backing procedures – and ensure the way is clear before proceeding.