Trailer Safety in Charlottesville, Virginia: Backing

Backing up any vehicle is very dangerous, particularly for pedestrians, motorcyclist, and bicyclist. When they are behind a vehicle, they are typically in an area with limited visibility. Any driver can contest that backing up a vehicle is a risky endeavor and even the most careful driver can sometimes miss something. This is especially so for drivers of larger vehicles, including tractor trailers. It is recommended by the Virginia Commercial Driver’s Manual when operating a tractor trailer that the driver should “avoid” backing up when possible.

But in cases where backing up is a necessity it is recommended that the following safety rules are followed:

  • Look at your path before you begin backing. Get out of the vehicle and check your clearance to the sides and overhead.
  • Turn on four-way flashers and blow the horn before backing.
  • Back slowly. Use the lowest reverse gear.
  • Back and turn toward the driver’s side. This allows you to see better. You can watch the rear of your vehicle by looking out the side window. Use driver side backing even if it means going around the block to put your vehicle in this position. The extra safety is worth it.
  • Use a helper. A helper can check your blind spots for you. The helper should stand where he or she has a view of the rear of the truck and the driver can see the helper. If you lose sight of the helper, stop. He may be in a place of danger. Before you begin backing, agree on hand signals that you both understand.

These are all useful tips but there are even more things to consider when backing with a trailer hitched to your vehicle, including:

  • When backing a car, straight truck or bus, you turn the top of the steering wheel in the direction that you want to go. When backing a trailer, turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction. Once the trailer starts to turn, you must turn the wheel the other way to follow the trailer.
  • When you back a trailer, try to position your vehicle so you can back in a straight line. If you must back on a curved path, back to the driver’s side so you can see.
  • Back slowly.
  • Use both mirrors. The mirrors help you see if the trailer is staying on the proper path. Correct the trailer’s path by turning the top of the steering wheel in the direction of the drift.
  • Pull forward. Make pull-ups to reposition our vehicle as needed.

When operating a car, truck, tractor trailer or any other motor vehicle, it is crucial to other motorists and pedestrian safety that you take the time to exercise your full attention and caution when backing up.