This can be a confusing time for you as a learner as not everyone finds it easy to drive a car backwards. You may take to it fairly naturally but others may find their progress floundering to a halt. When problems are experienced with a manoeuvre, it often affects your driving standard as a whole. It should follow then that reversing is not to be attempted too early. Initially, it is a good idea for you to practise reversing in a straight line.
The Straight Reverse
Start by finding a quiet, level stretch of road where you will not be too close to junctions or bends etc.
There are certain laws and rules that you must follow when reversing. The basic rules are:
- Ensure the way is clear behind before you begin reversing
- Keep the speed low by using clutch control
- Do not reverse when there is traffic closely approaching from behind
- Never reverse from a minor road or driveway on to a major road
- You must not reverse your vehicle for a greater distance than is really necessary. It is actually an offence to do so.
This must be borne in mind while you are practising. Apart from it being an offence to reverse for more than a reasonable distance, it can place a lot of strain on your neck. Not everyone feels comfortable when turning to look behind the car. You will need to keep the reverse going for long enough to get the feel of it, but don’t overdo it.
When you are ready, move forward into the ‘reversing’ position. As many beginners turn the wheels unnecessarily or over-steer, a position close to the kerb will often result in scuffed tyres. To avoid this, drive forward and stop parallel to the kerb but about half a metre away.
Blind Spot Checks
A point to remember here is with regard to the blind spot check before moving away. When taking up the reversing position, even though the distance you need to move may only be short, you must not forget to look round first.
Having gained the starting position, you need to find out how to select reverse gear. This can be a little awkward on some cars, you may need to push the lever down, or to lift a collar up. You should practise engaging the gear a few times until you get used to it.
Next, you need to get into a comfortable position. You need to be able to look behind comfortably without stretching your neck too much. To do this properly the you must turn in the seat a little; but make sure you don’t turn so far round that you will have difficulty in reaching the pedals. You may remove the seatbelt if you wish. I for one discourage this however as it can easily get overlooked after the manoeuvre. If it does cause discomfort, try tucking it under you arm.
You can now prepare for moving off. Once the car is in gear, turn round and look through the rear window. Try to pick out an object some distance behind which appears to be in a straight line with your car; another parked vehicle would be ideal. You can then use this as a guide while reversing and it should help you keep in a straight line. Now set the gas and bring the clutch brought to bite as normal.
Don’t grip the steering wheel too tightly. Your right hand should be near the top and the left hand somewhere between the ‘half-past’ and ‘quarter-to’ positions. As you are about to reverse in a straight line you should not need to do much with the wheel apart from minor adjustments.
Just before moving, make a final check to the front and over the right-hand shoulder for approaching traffic or pedestrians who may cross behind your car. Pedestrians and cyclists will frequently come from the blind area to the right and quite obliviously venture behind the vehicle, even when it is moving.
With everything in place you may then reverse for a short distance – about two or three car lengths should be far enough. If you need to steer at all, avoid thinking about the words left and right. It is simpler to think about turning the wheel towards or away from the kerb.
It is important to keep the speed very slow during this exercise, this will give you time to correct any errors. If you do find yourself getting into difficulty, stop and return to your starting position before continuing to reverse in a straight line again.
A straight reverse is one of the exercises you may be asked to do on a driving test. For some inexplicable reason however it will be on the right hand side of the road. So it is a good idea to practise a straight reverse on both sides until you are able maintain a parallel line and a steady speed.
To find out what the examiner will be looking for on your driving test, The Driving Test book goes into much more detail.