With the exception of parallel parking, backing is probably the most ignored area of driving when learning to drive. In observing people backing out of driveways and parking spaces this becomes apparent when they take up two lanes of traffic and block other drivers while getting their vehicle positioned to drive forward.
Overcomplicating backing a vehicle is not necessary since it is really a fundamental exercise. In the first part of a two part series we will discuss the easy way to back up a vehicle.
When someone road tests in Texas they are asked to back their vehicle fifty feet straight. This is accomplished by placing the left hand on top of the steering wheel at the 12:00 position, shifting their legs and hips to the right, placing the right arm on the arm rest or behind the passenger seat, and looking over the right shoulder. They should now be able to look out the middle of the back window. They then choose a target to aim for that is straight back and let the car move on its own in reverse while covering the brake. When told to stop they must stop completely and then they may face forward. Invariably what happens is that they zigzag in their lane and look forward while still moving backwards.
Two things you must remember when backing; (1) Whichever way you turn the wheel is the way the back end goes. Just like when you’re going forward, whichever way you turn the wheel is the way the front end goes, so again when you’re going backwards whichever way you turn the wheel is the way the back end goes. (2) Do not oversteer the wheel when backing straight. Hold it steady with slight adjustments in steering and don’t look forward until you stop completely. If you get off track turn the wheel slightly the way you want the back end to go and then straighten the wheel.
When backing out of driveways and you want to head to the right, as soon as your back tires touch the road pavement turn your wheel to the left to back into your lane. If you want to head to the left as you leave the driveway, then as soon as your back end of the car is even with the curb, turn your wheel to the right to land in your lane and not block oncoming traffic from your left.
In an upcoming blog we’ll talk about why backing safely is so important and the dreaded parallel parking maneuver.