Backing up is one of the most dangerous driving maneuvers

Driving forward is difficult enough, but did you know that driving in reverse is one of the most dangerous driving maneuvers you can make? According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 25 percent of all vehicle accidents occur when a driver is going in reverse. Among the most common locations are parking lots and driveways. And while most of the auto body damage is of the fender-bender variety, sometimes the results can be tragic.

Backover is the term applied to hitting a person while backing, and among the most common victims are children. About 50 children are hit or run over each week, mostly by parents, grandparents and neighbors in residential driveways. The NSC estimates that backing accidents result in 15,000 injuries and 500 deaths every year. Here’s how you can avoid these completely avoidable tragedies.

Improve Visibility

Make sure you can see well: double check and reposition mirrors before starting the car, and keep all your windows clean for clear visibility. Remove any obstacles obstructing your sight inside the vehicle, and don’t allow anything to block the rear window.

Know Your Blind Spots

Get to know how far your vehicle’s blind spots extend. Place a 24”-tall object behind your car or truck, and keep moving it back until you can see it in your rearview mirror. This indicates how far back a small child must be in order for you to see him or her. It’s often further than 10 feet (3 meters) behind your vehicle, and in a pick-up or SUV it can be much further back. Keep this in mind when preparing to back up. You can’t rely on your mirrors for a complete view of what’s behind you.

Walk Around

Before you start your car, do a walk around to see what’s behind you. This is especially important in residential settings or store parking lots. Shopping carts can be difficult to see at night. Once you determine the way is clear, immediately begin to back while simultaneously rechecking the path behind you. Circumstances change, so do not wait several minutes. If your departure is delayed, do another walk around.

Plan Ahead

When parking, observe the terrain or possible obstacles, especially when you are in unfamiliar surroundings. Park in the center of the parking space, leaving adequate room on either side of the vehicle for neighboring vehicles.

Improve Your Backing Skills

How well you back up depends upon your skills. If you’re not confident of your backing ability, practice in a deserted parking lot on weekends using traffic cones. You can improve your skills with practice, which will make you a better driver overall.

Turn your head and upper body to watch through the rear window. Keep watching directly and in the rear view mirror. Don’t compromise your driving ability with distractions. Consider sounding your horn briefly if backing in a parking lot or busy area. If you’re in doubt while backing, pull forward and do another walk around or ask someone outside the vehicle to spot for you.

Teaching Others

Teach your children not to play near or behind vehicles. Instruct them to not leave bikes or other items behind parked cars. Explain backing safety by supervising young children as someone else is backing out of your driveway or parking space.