Driving in reverse, or "backing up," is one of the more complex driving skills to master. Unlike forward motion, where you have a clear view of what's in front of you, driving in reverse requires you to turn around to see what's behind you. New and seasoned drivers alike must stay alert and cautious when backing up.
Most of your backing up will likely be in a straight line. You must be 100% sure there is nothing behind you before you begin to back up. Check all three of your mirrors, then turn your head 180 degrees to look behind you. Check to the sides of your vehicle just in case anyone is walking toward you. Look closer to the ground for small children or animals, especially in residential areas.
If you see a pedestrian approaching, try to make eye contact with them. If they stop and wave you forward, it's likely safe to back up, but don't take this as an invitation to stop paying attention to your surroundings. Otherwise, wait until the roadway is clear before reversing.
When your path is clear, put your foot on the brake pedal. Place your left hand at the top of your steering wheel, as pictured below. Driving in reverse is the only time you'll use one-hand steering like this.
Next, put your vehicle in "Reverse," keeping your foot on the brake. Turn your body around in your seat so that you're looking out the back window, over your right shoulder. When your path of travel is clear, slowly reduce pressure off the brake pedal. Most of the time, you won't need to use the gas pedal while backing up. Keep your foot over the brake as you begin to reverse. This is called "Covering the Brake," and helps make sure that you don't accelerate too quickly, and that you can stop quickly if needed.
As you release pressure from the brake, your vehicle will begin backing up. Back up slowly, and keep an eye out for pedestrians and other vehicles. Once you're finished reversing, turn back around in your seat and put your foot back on the brake pedal. Shift to drive, check to make sure the path in front of you and to your sides is clear, and you're ready to go!
Sometimes you'll need to turn as you reverse, such as when you're backing into a perpendicular parking space. It’s safer to drive out of a perpendicular space than it is to back out, so consider backing into the parking space when you can. It also gives you a better view when leaving the space and lets you avoid backing out into traffic.
Here are some steps to follow when backing into a perpendicular parking spot:
Sometimes, you won't be able to back into a perpendicular parking space, so you'll have to back out of it. That's okay, as long as you're being cautious. Here are the steps to follow:
Other times, you'll need to back out at an angle. Take a look at the illustration below.
When backing out of an angled parking space, do the following:
Your back-up camera, if your vehicle has one, should be used in conjunction with the steps outlined above. Think of it as an extra set of eyes. It's not a replacement for your eyes.
If your vehicle is equipped with a back-up camera, it will usually turn on when you put your vehicle in "Reverse." Most steps of the process will remain the same when using a backup camera; you must still check behind you by looking over your shoulders and checking your mirrors.
When your surroundings are clear, you can back up as you normally would, checking the monitor in addition to checking over your shoulders and your mirrors. There's always a chance that the back-up camera doesn't detect an object that could be a hazard.
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