Reversing - top ten tips

Reversing is so ... backward. It can be a worry. Follow these top ten tips and you should find it a bit easier! Or take a look at this video to see what you could be up against...
  1. Keep things in perspective
    Sure, you might fail a test when reversing. But how much danger are you in when going back at one mile an hour - compared to driving forward at 70 mph? How about driving on a country road you don't know on a dark, rainy night. Think of reversing on test as an opportunity to slow down and take a little time out.
  2. Move the door mirror
    Especially when reversing around a corner, you need to know where the kerb is. It's OK to move the door mirror to get a good view of the back of the car and the kerb. BUT (isn't there always a but) don't stare at the door mirror. Keep looking back through the rear window for other people, and stop and check all around regularly. Oh yes, remember to put the mirror back in position when you've finished.
  3. Pull forward to correct a mistake
    OK, so you're going back, and you get the feeling that your position is not good. Looking in the left door mirror you see the kerb is VERY close. You stop (of course). You're still uncertain. Then pull forward a bit. No problem. Just go far enough to be in a position to be sure. Then carry on backwards. Easy. (BUT you must look around before changing direction. It might not be safe to move at that moment). Someone I taught pulled forward on their test three times when parallel parking. Because she finished in a good position, and kept looking for other road users - she passed. No problem. (This doesn't guarantee that you will pass if you have to make three corrections, I'm afraid. Each test is judged individually.)
  4. Don't be a perfectionist
    We all want to get every manoeuvre just right - every time. Real life isn't like that. Your reversing skills, and spatial awareness, will develop over time. Aim to finish each reversing task - no matter how much you have to correct it. Lots of people hate parallel park, but usually manage to get it done. As an instructor, I'm looking for people to be (relatively) relaxed, and not too bothered about what is, after all, just a small part of their set of driving skills.
  5. Get out of the way!
    When you reverse around a corner into a road on the left, someone else might drive out of that road. You should stop and let them pass you. But what if they don't want to? What if they just stop and wait behind you? Easy. Give it a moment or two to make sure, then drive back to where you started (just remember to look all round for other road users first). Start the manoeuvre again when the other driver has gone. The examiner will expect you to do this without them telling you.
  6. Try to practice in as many different places as possible
    Do you go to the same road every time you do a turn in the road? Always reverse around the same corner? Do you find yourself in the same car park every time you bay park? Hmmm - maybe not such a good idea. Variety is the spice of life - and reversing. Find a car park where you have to reverse between two cars, or try reversing into a road on the right for a change. If you have tried loads of different places to reverse, the examiner shouldn't be able to worry you when he says, "Just pull up next to that car, and reverse into the space behind it..."
  7. Stop
    That's right, stop. Don't rush back. Stop every now and again. Take stock of your position. Look around for other people. Only move back if you are certain that your position is good. If you feel unsure of your position, or need to look around, then... stop. (I've been a driving instructor since 1987, and I've never had a learner fail their test for going too slow when reversing. Maybe if other people are waiting for you to finish a manoeuvre, you might - but it's unlikely.)
  8. Find a big empty car park
    and drive around backwards for a while. You won't have to worry about kerbs and positioning so much and you will get a feel for the way the car handles going backwards. It's different from going forwards as you're steering from the opposite end of the car. Try doing some 90 degree turns, and straightening up again. Next time you attempt to reverse around a corner, you'll find this could make a big difference to your judgement.
  9. Observation, observation, observation
    There are three things that matter when reversing: observation, observation, and observation. No matter how good your manoeuvre, you have to keep looking all round for other road users. When you check all round, pause. You wouldn't go forwards looking backwards, would you? So stop regularly, and have a good look for pedestrians, cyclists, cars, lorries, dogs, cats... you get the idea. Wait for other people, and let them go if they want to.
  10. Keep the speed low
    - very low. If you're not happy going very slowly uphill using "clutch control," or creeping downhill using the brake, you will find reversing hard. You will often need to hold the car still on an uphill slope using the clutch. Practise low speed skills before you try a tricky manoeuvre.

Finally... relax. It's only reversing.