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Defensive Driving - Prevent Backing Accidents

Updated on November 16, 2009

Backing up

The most common type of vehicle accident occurs when drivers are backing out. There are probably several reasons for this. One may be due to limited vision out of the back window or around long truck beds and equipment bodies. Another may be that drivers fail to use their typical precautions because the vehicle is being operated at low speed. And many backing accidents occur because drivers rely too heavily on their mirrors. Even with the best of mirrors there are still blind spots on the sides and, especially, at the back of the vehicle.

Try following these guidelines to reduce your risk of getting into a vehicle accident while backing up.

  • Avoid having to back up.  Park so you can move forward when starting.
  • Park in a location away from moving traffic or other parked vehicles so you avoid difficult maneuvering conditions or set yourself up for a collision.
  • Before you back your vehicle, walk all the way around it to check underneath and at the sides and back for obstructions or other dangers.  Ensure there is plenty of clearance around the vehicle to back safely.
  • Before you move, turn your head to the left and right to look directly out the side and back windows of your vehicle.  If you can't look directly out the windows, use your side and rear-view mirrors to look in all directions.
  • If you see pedestrians or vehicles approaching, judge their speed and distance before backing.  If there is any doubt, let them pass before moving.
  • If your vehicle has a backup alarm, make sure it is working properly.  If it does not have an alarm but conditions warrant that you warn others that you are backing, put on your flashers and tap your horn with quick beeps.
  • Watch your side clearances on both sides and then back out slowly.

Using a spotter

Sometimes a spotter can assist you with backing by watching the rear of the vehicle. If possible, have the spotter remain in the vehicle. If the spotter must be outside the vehicle, the law requires the person must be stationed where they can see the rear of the vehicle and be seen by the driver. Make sure you can see each other at all times in the side-view mirrors. Stop immediately if you lose sight of your spotter!

If you act as a spotter never assume that the driver can see you or knows where you are going. Use hand signals or radios to keep in constant communication. Do not walk alongside or ride outside a backing vehicle.


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      5 years ago

      True, back up cameras require watching a monitor in lieu of watching all mirrors and looking over the shoulder. And they don't warn you if somebody/something moved into your blind spot after you last looked at the monitor. But they can help, especially in tight quarters such as parallel parking. Some even include a microphone so the driver can also hear who's immediately behind the vehicle.

      True, Fresnel lenses can be cost effective and help in vehicles with vertical windows all the way at the rear of the vehicle (ie: SUV's, Van's, Station Wagons, Motorhomes, etc), but what about all the cars...?

      Proximity warning systems (ie: sonar/ultrasonic, radar) change sound intensity approaching people/objects. This makes a good supplement to Drivers who can maintain visual vigilance (mirrors, over the shoulder, etc.) with the added protection of an automated warning system that alerts you when an unknown object moves into your path. Think of cars with high trunks and pickup trucks where the blind spot can be 7-8' wide x 3-4' high x 10' or more behind.

      Best of all worlds, experienced driver with supplemental Proximity and Camera systems.

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      Tony Nestora 

      6 years ago

      Dear NHTSA - Backup Car Cameras are NOT the answer to back over accidents. They only address new cars from model year 2014 and newer, not the 60-90+ Million SUV's, minivans, station wagons, and pickup trucks that were sold over the last 15-20 years- those are the real problem!! In today's difficult economy more and more people are holding on to their current/old cars rather than buying a new one with a backup camera. AND- the camera is not intuitive, it requires a learning curve. Who wants to have to look forward at your dashboard when you are going backward? Then your field of vision is limited to what the camera sees only, nothing else. One of our fresnel lenses installs easily inside the back window of any SUV, minivan, station wagon, or crossover. Because it's inside, it doesn't get dirty and restrict your vision like a backup camera can, especially in the winter. The lens has no learning curve, you do what you always did - turn to the right, look over your right shoulder and out the back window. Now you can see everything you did before, your field of vision is far greater than with a camera, AND you can now see into your "blind zone" because of the lens. Yes a camera does a great job letting you see your blind zone right behind your car. But they are way too expensive for the average American to retrofit into their old/existing vehicle when they can buy an easy to install lens that works just as well showing you your blind zone and it only costs $15 !! A camera would cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to have installed, you can't do it yourself. Again, the problem is the cars already on the road right now driving around with no add-on visual aids and with horrible rearward vision, that's who you need to address, not the new cars that haven't even come out yet!! FYI - Tony Nestora , I can be reached at either of the e-mail addresses shown in the cc: section above or at (203) - 938-0408.

    • profile image

      Dave B 

      6 years ago

      Excellent tips.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Using a spotter can be dangerous. Backup cameras are a great help.

    • profile image

      Wyly Law Firm 

      7 years ago

      Good tips.

      Great information for those who are just learning and more seasoned drivers.

      Car safety is extremely important for everyone.


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