The easiest way to avoid a backing collision is to not back up. Look for the opportunity to pull through a parking space.   -  Photo: Automotive Fleet

The easiest way to avoid a backing collision is to not back up. Look for the opportunity to pull through a parking space. 

Photo: Automotive Fleet

Collisions in parking lots are one of the most common collisions every year. They typically don’t get a great deal of attention because they usually don’t involve injury or death. 

However, the expenses associated with these crashes are staggering. These expenses involve vehicle repair and the costs associated with the lost productivity of those involved in these crashes.

It isn’t hard to understand why these collisions are so prevalent. The typical business driver drives approximately 25,000 miles a year. That means that they are driving 25,000 miles forward in a year. 

That same driver is probably driving about two miles backward in a year. These two miles are usually done in 10 to 15-foot increments. It stands to reason that the reverse driving skills of these drivers could be better.

8 Rules to Follow to Avoid Collisions

There are simple solutions to help drivers avoid these collisions. The following offers some useful rules that will assist drivers from being involved in parking, backing, and sideswipe collisions:

Rule No. 1 – Pay Attention

Too often, drivers enter parking lots and automatically go into relax mode. It is not “time-out” in parking lots. Typically, there are a great number of vehicles and pedestrians in these condensed areas. Don’t let your guard down. 

You must be especially aware of other distracted drivers, pedestrians who aren’t watching where they are going, and parents who are allowing their children to run loose amongst the vehicles. When you are driving in a parking lot, be aware... be very aware.

Rule No. 2 – Don’t Back Up

The easiest way to avoid a backing collision is not to back up. Look for the opportunity to pull through a parking space. 

By pulling through, you eliminate the need to back up. This will help you avoid backing into other vehicles and stationary fixtures, as well as help you avoid having a sideswipe collision with the vehicle next to you. 

It is not always possible to pull through; however, every time you do, you decrease the risk of being involved in one of the most common collisions. Doesn’t it make sense to reduce your risk of a collision?

Rule No. 3 – Back Into A Space

If you don’t have an opportunity to pull through a parking space, the next best option is to back into a space. It is much safer to back into a controlled parking space than it is to back out into an uncontrolled traffic lane. By backing into the space, you have a much better view when attempting to exit. 

Many drivers argue, "I can’t back into a confined space." Well, don’t you have to back out of that confined space? Wouldn’t it be safer to back into a space where there aren’t cars and pedestrians going by, versus a traffic lane where all of this activity may be occurring?

Rule No. 4 – Take A Walk

If you do have to back up, first take a walk around your vehicle. Besides the aerobic workout that you will receive from this activity, there are some additional real safety benefits. People will see you going around your vehicle and may realize you are leaving. They will be aware of your presence and give you some space. 

You will see other people, vehicles pulling in, vehicles ready to leave, and pedestrians in the area. 

Also, while you are walking around your vehicle, look at it. You may notice some damage that occurred to your vehicle while you were away from it. This will save you from having to explain that damage later. Lastly, by walking around your vehicle, it puts you into the mindset that you must now drive. As simple as this sounds, it works.

Rule No. 5 – Make Some Noise

When you put your vehicle in reverse and your backup lights are illuminated, tap your horn a couple of times before going backward. Tap the horn a couple of times to alert others in the area of your intention to reverse.

Some people have a hard time buying into this one. 

Here is an argument that may convince you this is a good habit to develop: Have you ever seen parents allowing their children to run loose in parking lots? With the average height of a 5-year-old, if that child is standing directly behind your vehicle, you will not see them. Kids don’t see danger. They will stand behind a running car that has the backup lights on. 

If you alert people with a few taps on the horn, the parent of the child may see your backup lights and remove the child from harm's way. It’s worth all of the looks if it saves you from being involved in one tragedy.

Rule No. 6 – Get A Better View

If you drive a vehicle where you can look through the rear glass, look through the rear glass when you are backing. Turn yourself to your right side and look through the rear window when you are traveling in reverse. This provides you with the best view possible.

If you are driving a vehicle where you don’t have rear glass to look through, make sure you have mirrors adjusted so that you can view the most area around your vehicle while backing. If you have a passenger, have that person spot you. Two sets of eyes are better than one.

Utilization of safety features such as a backup camera adds a 360-degree view, but should not be solely relied on when getting a better view.

Rule No. 7 – Use The Pivot Point

The pivot point of a four-wheel vehicle is the rear axle. The front tires give the vehicle direction; however, the vehicle pivots off of the rear tires. 

If you line up your rear tire next to a pole, you can turn the vehicle as hard as you want towards that pole, and you will not hit it. People tend to turn too soon. This is the reason why drivers do the “curb check” with the right rear tire when they are making a right turn.

Wait until your rear tires are in line with the obstacle before you turn towards it. This tip may save you some tire damage and some bent metal.

Rule No. 8 – Watch the Front End Swing

When you are traveling in reverse, your front end will swing wide and fast. You need to compensate for this. Anybody who has ever driven a forklift with rear-wheel steering knows this to be true. When backing, be aware of where the front of your vehicle is tracking. 

You have to make sure the front of your vehicle will clear an obstacle before you start turning the wheel. This type of collision can easily be avoided by simply being aware of what the front of your vehicle is doing.

The Safe Fleet Pay-Off

Parking, backing, and sideswipe collisions can easily be avoided. With increased awareness and the changing of some driving habits, most of these collisions can be eliminated. It may take some work, but if this leads to fewer crashes, it is worth the effort.

About the author
Judie Nuskey

Judie Nuskey

Director of Operations

Judie Nuskey is the director of operations at Advanced Driver Training Services (ADTS) and assists corporations in creating custom driver training programs to lower (or keep low) their crash rates.

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