How To Never Have To Back-Up

Jim Luff
Posted on October 8, 2014

The concept of “First Move Forward” has been adopted by many companies such as Chevron as a way to reduce parking lot accidents. Any company running fleet vehicles should adopt this practice.

The Stats
The average chauffeur or driver will travel in reverse about one mile annually. The average American driver logs about 12,000 miles a year while commercial drivers average 110,000 miles each year. A whopping 25% to 30% of all accidents occur while a vehicle is in reverse.

Why Is That?
Almost all backing accidents occur while exiting a parking space. That’s because you must watch the vehicle on your right and left to avoid contact, and you have limited vision of cross-traffic behind you until you back into their travel path. There are many details to concentrate on as you turn your wheels to exit a parking space and your vehicle direction begins to change. Usually the drivers crossing paths with you are looking for parking spaces, so it increases the odds that they are not paying attention as you back up.

What Is First Move Forward?
This safe driving technique involves planning ahead when parking. When you look for a space in a parking lot with open-ended stalls, choose one that you can pull through and park facing out so that when you exit, your first move is forward. In the event that you cannot pull through a parking space, back into it whenever possible and legal. In both cases, when you exit, drive forward out of the space. While it can take some getting used to, this technique has been embraced by Chevron, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Shell and many other Fortune 500 companies. It has significantly reduced backing accidents within those companies.

Selecting The Perfect Spot
We spend a lot of time waiting for people to exit stadiums, theaters, conference centers and other large venues where many people exit a parking lot at once.

Parking in a location where your first gear selection is drive instead of reverse will improve your chances of getting out unscathed. If your first move is forward, you can clearly see the other cars pulling out. The best spot is one where you drive forward to get in and drive forward to get out. These often can be found in parking lots, but you probably have to park further away from the entrance of the venue. The next best option is to back into a spot that has no parking behind it.

This can be found on the edges of a lot. If a parking lot will not facilitate either of these parking spaces or has tight turns for large vehicles, don’t go in. Park elsewhere. The time spent jockeying into a small space increases the odds of door dings or fender benders and is simply an unnecessary risk.

Use Good Judgment
While the First Move Forward practice should be used whenever possible, there are times when you simply must exercise judgment in whether backing into a stall or parking space could pose a safety risk. For instance, backing through heavy traffic or backing a large vehicle without a spotter could create a more hazardous situation. It is not a practice that can be used in every parking lot.

What About Back-Up Cameras?
With the prevalence of back-up cameras in all types of luxury vehicles and some non-ones, do they diminish the need for First Move Forward? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted some tests involving a child crash test dummy walking behind an SUV backing up, with 111 volunteer drivers who were told to evaluate other functions of the car. Each was asked to back-up the SUV as part of the tests, but not that they would be evaluating the camera or looking for a dummy. 56% of those using the back-up camera still hit the dummy. That’s way too high, and even just one “child” getting hit is too much. Although Chevron uses back-up cameras, it still insists on First Move Forward. So the answer to the above question is: No.

Related Topics: chauffeur behavior, chauffeur training, defensive driving, driver safety, How To, Jim Luff, passenger safety, traffic assessment, vehicle safety, vehicle tips

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