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You are Not an Owl (Backing Up Basics)

Unlike owls, humans can’t swivel their heads around to face backwards. If only we could, driving backwards would be easier.

Let’s review this checklist of tips for backing up your vehicle.

  • Think in advance. Drivers should not put themselves into unnecessary backing situations.
  • Get to know a vehicle’s blind spots. In a medium-sized truck, blind spots can extend up to 16 feet in front and 160 feet behind a vehicle. Drivers need to remember that mirrors can never give the whole picture while backing.
  • Park defensively. Drivers must choose easy-exit parking spaces that don’t crowd neighboring vehicles and park their vehicle in the center of the parking space.
  • When parking in an alley: If an alley doesn’t permit driving all the way through or room to turn around, a driver should back into it (if local ordinances permit) so that when leaving the vehicle can pull forward into the street.
  • Do a walk-around first. Walking around a vehicle gives a driver firsthand view of the backing area and any limitations. You can 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.
  • Every backing situation is new and different. Sometimes a driver visits the same location several times a day and should be watchful each visit for changes and any new obstacles.
  • Use a spotter. A driver should use another person to help them when backing. The driver and spotter should use hand signals instead of verbal ones and make sure they understand each other’s signals. Don’t have the spotter walking backwards while giving instructions.
  • When you have to spot for yourself, return to the vehicle and start backing within a few seconds after finishing the walk-around. This will allow very little time for people and/or obstacles to change behind the vehicle.
  • A back up alarm can help warn away pedestrians and drivers of other vehicles who may try to enter the area the vehicle is backing into.
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