To Back or Not to Back...

What is the most dangerous thing you are going to do today? If you answered driving, you are probably right. And what is the most dangerous thing you will probably do while driving a State vehicle? According to Risk Management statistics, you will back into someone or something.

Risk Management records covering over 5000 crashes between July of 1996 and July of 2006 show that 22 percent of the crashes occur while backing up. No other cause of loss is greater than this. Astonishingly, the next most frequent cause of a crash (11 percent) is due to striking fixed objects! Some of these fixed object crashes occurred while the driver was backing up.

Here are some true stories from the Risk Management files:

One employee shared that he was backing up and knew there was a cement post behind him. He said that by the time he turned around to see where it was he had already hit it. Hmmm.....

Just before July Fourth some years ago, a State employee was out picking up roadside trash with his dump truck. As he proceeded out of Rockland on Route 17, he spied a discarded garbage bag. He stopped, put the dump truck in reverse and intended to back up and get the bag he had just passed. Unfortunately, a family of four from New York was behind the State truck and watched helplessly as the truck backed up several hundred feet and right over the hood of their car. Fortunately, no one was injured.

And then there was the time that a State employee was backing into a tight parking space while being guided by a spotter. The spotter told the employee he had plenty of room so keep on backing up. Suddenly, the employee heard a crash as he felt his truck hit the car behind him. What did he do wrong? His spotter was an inmate at the State Prison. OUCH....

What can you do?
Here are a few tips and suggestions:

- Avoid backing when possible. (pretend reverse gear doesn't work)

If you must back up;
- Plan to do it when you arrive,
- If you can't back when you arrive, walk behind your vehicle and check it before you back up when leaving.
- Remove all distractions and turn off all noise makers like the radio, heater fan, etc.
- Roll down your window and listen as you back,
- Back S-l-o-w-l-y,
- If possible, back so that the space you are backing into is visible from the driver's side,
- Get the whole picture before you back,
- Check both sides of your vehicle as you back and,
- Use a RELIABLE guide when necessary.

What can you do as a defensive driver to avoid being backed into?

- Don't follow anyone too closely, especially any trucks that have to back up using their side mirrors. Remember that if you can't see their mirrors, they probably can't see you.
- When driving in parking lots, be constantly alert for people backing out of parking spaces.
- If someone is backing and you think they don't see you, blow your horn and flash your headlights right away to try and alert them to your presence.
- And get out of the way safely if possible or necessary.

We hope this information is helpful and encourage you to back safely and avoid problems like this:

Photo of a car that has been backed over