One out of every four vehicle accidents can be blamed on poor backing skills, according to the National Safety Council. Approximately 500 people die and 15,000 are injured due to backing accidents each year. Using safe vehicle backing tips can help prevent you or your employees from experiencing the trauma and expense of a backing accident.
· Think ahead. Drivers should not put themselves in an unnecessary backing situation.
· Park defensively. Drivers choose an easy-exit parking space, like pull-through or where no one else is parked. Don’t crowd neighboring vehicles; be sure to park your vehicle in the middle of your space.
· Know your vehicle’s blind spots. Drivers need to remember that mirrors never give the whole picture while backing. In a medium-sized truck, blind spots can extend up to 16 feet in front and 160 feet behind the vehicle.
· Do a walk-around. Before entering your vehicle do a walk-around. This gives you a firsthand view of the backing area and any limitations. You can check for children, signs, poles, drop-offs, buildings, and other things you might hit if not attentive in your backing.
· Know your clearances. While performing your walk-around also check for obstructions, low hanging eaves and tree limbs, wires, and any other potential clearance-related obstacles.
· Alley parking is a special circumstance. If an alley doesn’t permit driving all the way through or room to turn around, you should back into it (if ordinances permit) so when leaving you can pull forward into the street rather than backing blindly out into the street.
· Use a spotter. Have another person help when backing. The driver and spotter should use hand signals instead of verbal instructions. This may take some practice so that you understand each other’s signals. Do not allow the spotter to be positioned directly behind your vehicle or walk backwards behind you while giving instructions. They should be off to the driver’s side where you can see them in your side mirror.
· Every backing situation is new and different. Sometimes a driver visits the same location several times a day. The driver should be watchful each visit for changes and new obstacles (new vehicles, trash cans, people, etc.)
· Drivers sometimes must spot for themselves. They need to return to the vehicle and start backing within a few seconds after finishing their walk-around. This will allow very little time for people, cars, or other obstacles to change the backup conditions. Backing without a spotter should only take place after the driver has learned as much as possible about the area they are backing into.
Long-Term Solutions to Safe Backing:
· Install rear-vision camera systems in vehicles to eliminate rear blind spots. Investing in a rear-vision camera system for vehicles can put drivers in full visual control of the rear of a vehicle.
· No amount of forward-driving experience can help a driver with backing a truck or other vehicles. All drivers need practice, practice, practice in safe surroundings until they become familiar with the way the vehicle backs up compared to the direction the steering wheel is turned. Supervisors need to test and approve drivers’ skills before allowing them on the streets.
· Create and support a company-wide training program. The program should include a driver’s course to teach and review backing techniques, as well as covering equipment usage, hand signals, dangers to avoid, and other risk-lowering topics. OMAG has partnered with OSU/OKC’s Precision Driving School to provide training to municipal drivers free of charge. Contact OMAG Risk Management Services to get more details on how to sign up.
With so many potential injuries, loss of property and vehicular liability claims isn’t it worth it to take some time to evaluate your vehicle backing skill?