Stage 2: Backing Up

Being able to drive in reverse is an extremely important skill. Many of us drive in reverse several times a day in crowded areas such as parking lots. Therefore, make sure that you practice driving in reverse until it becomes second nature for your teen.

For these exercises, work in a large, empty parking lot.

How to drive in reverse

For many people, driving in reverse is quite difficult to master. Figuring out which way to turn the wheel is usually the source of the problem. Thankfully, this problem is an easy one to solve.

Turn the wheel in the direction you want the back end of the car to turn.

  • If you want the rear of the car to turn to the right, turn the wheel to the right.
  • If you want the rear of the car to turn left, turn the wheel to the left.

Reversing is the only driving situation where holding the wheel with one hand is encouraged.

  • Place your left hand at the 12 o’clock position.
  • Drape your right arm across your seat.
  • Look over your right shoulder to see where you’re going.

Use the brake to control speed
When first learning to drive in reverse, you should restrict your teen to only using the brake. In fact, most reversing situations only require the use of the brake.

Obviously, there are a few situations in which quickly backing up is necessary. However, remember that if your foot is covering the brake, you can never stomp on the accelerator by mistake.

A common, yet very dangerous reversing situation is backing into traffic. It is in this situation that teens are likely to freeze up or “freak out”. A teen may have half of the vehicle in the street and suddenly become scared by a fast-approaching vehicle.

Stopping the car by slamming on the brake is their first, instinctive reaction. Unfortunately, if they’re using the accelerator to reverse, they may actually “gun it” into the street. Keep that scenario in mind when practicing reversing.

Don’t forget to look forward!

Wait, what? I thought we were going in reverse. Why would I look forward? For the exact same reason that you check your rearview mirror when driving forward. You need to instill in your teen that it is their responsibility to be aware of everything going on around their car by checking all of their mirrors.

Obviously, you should limit your forward glances to only a few seconds in duration. Your car is moving backwards, so that is where most of your attention should be directed.

How to practice driving in reverse

Start in a large, empty parking lot. Have your teen drive in a straight line. They should be looking over their right shoulder and making slight adjustments to the wheel to continue moving straight backwards. They should be using the brake as their primary method of speed control. Tell them where you’d like them to stop. Ask them to get out of the car so that they can see where their car actually is in comparison to where they think they stopped. For example, ask them to reverse in a straight line until the rear of the car is perpendicular to a light pole.

Don’t forget to practice having them drive in reverse by only using their mirrors. It’s a great idea for new drivers to learn what can and cannot be seen when using the rearview and sideview mirrors.

Once your child shows competence in reversing in a straight line, have them reverse into parking spots. Again, have them get out of the car to assess their progress.

Common Mistakes

  • New drivers typically turn the wheel in the wrong direction when first learning to drive in reverse. Simply remind them to turn the wheel in the direction they want the rear of the car to go.
  • Accelerating too quickly. However, if you restrict their speed control to the brake, this won’t be a big issue.
  • Misjudging the position of the car. Getting out of the car once your teen thinks they’ve pulled far enough into a parking space is the best way to instill a sense of spatial awareness.

Continue on to Garage Parking

All information and advice contained within this website is to be taken at your own risk. Nothing contained within this website should be misconstrued as professional driving instruction.