The law says that you must not reverse your vehicle unless you can do so safely. Many people live on main roads and have a driveway onto that road. It might not be possible to turn around in the driveway so the only options are to go into the driveway forwards and reverse out, or reverse in and go out forwards. It is possible to reverse safely, even if traffic is heavy.
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No way to turn around in this driveway, and its entrance is on a busy two-lane road with a cycle lane
Reversing in is by far the preferable option but only really viable if your driveway is on your left; it would be extremely difficult to reverse in when approaching from the right. If also means that if your usual journey approaches your driveway so it’s on your left, it’s likely that you’ll be leaving your driveway turning right across one or more lanes of traffic. Exiting forward is definitely the safest option as there are fewer blind spots and you can accomplish the manoeuvre much more quickly. It’s also safer because it’s easier to see pedestrians and cyclists using the footpath when you emerge forwards.
When reversing into the driveway you get to slow the traffic down at your pace and then you make your manoeuvre. Traffic following you will mostly understand what you are doing if you use appropriate road positioning and signalling, but you will find that some drivers will drive right up behind you leaving you no room to reverse back. You will then have to wait for them to pass seeing as reversing vehicles do not have the right of way. Things can get awkward and other drivers might not be happy.
You can ask a passenger to get out and help you. If you’re worried about pedestrians on the footpath, use your horn to warn them.
When reversing out, you will need to wait for a gap in the traffic or for a friendly driver to let you out.
How can you make reversing easier?
If you can’t adjust your driveway, purchasing a car with a reversing camera will make it easier for you to reverse. Practising reversing will mean you will be more accurate and quicker. Smaller cars tend to be easier to reverse. Set your mirrors to their optimal position.
Reversing cameras help eliminate blind spots
NRMA has an index to evaluate how easy different cars are to reverse, although it’s by no means comprehensive.
When looking for a place to live, consider whether you’ll need to reverse into or out of your driveway.
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When must you not reverse?
You must not reverse onto or on a motorway and when there’s not enough space to reverse safely. You mustn’t reverse any further than necessary. It’s safer to do a 3-point turn in a minor road than reverse around the corner from a minor road into a major road.
Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists