Reversing Round A Corner

Reversing into a side round, if done correctly, is a safe and convenient way to turn your car around. However, it is a manoeuvre that needs to be carried out with great care and caution. When performing a corner reverse you will be reversing against traffic emerging from the side road, and as you reverse the front of your car will swing out into the road.

So, good and effective all-round observation is essential. You must continually check what is behind you, and what is also happening to the front and side of your car.

Your start point should be two or three car lengths away from the side road.

Check the road is clear in all directions and take note of any pedestrians and cyclists.

As you continue the manoeuvre keep a constant look out for any other road users.

Continue to reverse into the side road for about three car lengths, then stop and apply the handbrake.

Make sure you don’t block any driveways.

The wheels of your car must not mount the curb or cross the centre road markings. If they do you will fail your practical driving test.

Ideally you will be asked to pull up at the side of the road, just before the road to be used for this exercise, to receive the instructions. Unfortunately the real world is often not like this, and such a parking place may not be available at the moment you arrive. You may therefore, whilst on the move, be asked to pull up just passed the side road for the purpose of doing the corner reverse. Your instructor probably did it this way more often than not. If you want to take off your seat belt for this exercise (but see below), don’t do it until you have pulled forward to the starting position.

Practice this manoeuvre until you can do it quite quickly so you can do it “in between” traffic. Again, don’t take your seat belt off unless there is real reason to do so. Don’t ask the examiner to get out of the way by moving his seat or removing the head rest, if fitted. What you are saying then, really, is that the car is unsuitable in its standard form. And what if 80 year old Granny is sitting there? You going to ask her too? Learn to do the exercise with the car as it is. Don’t keep stopping unless to continue would inconvenience someone. Try to keep all round observation as you move, and look where you are going! You don’t gaze backwards when you are driving forwards, do you? Then don’t gaze forwards when you are driving backwards. Don’t use mirrors alone unless you are physically unable to look round. Special dispensation will be granted for this but will result in a restricted licence.

“Would you pull up along here, just before you reach the next road on the left, please?” That rather took me by surprise. I was just getting into my stride with the driving. I stopped at the side. “I would like you to reverse into this road on the left. Drive past it and stop, then back in keeping reasonably close to the kerb”.

After the usual precautions before moving off, I went forward to the starting position, stopping a little further from the kerb than if parking (this is critical and should be around half a metre or two feet away) and just a few feet past the side road, but where I could see the corner kerb. I had been trained to do this exercise with the seat belt on, and found this no inconvenience. Checked carefully ahead and behind, all clear, so I went slowly back, not too slowly though, keeping the car moving all the time. Just before I was going to turn the wheel, a car from behind was getting close and might be inconvenienced as our front swung out, so I stopped momentarily, leaving the car in reverse gear and putting the handbrake on to prevent any roll. Immediately the car had gone past, more observation, all clear, so started turning the wheel. All this time looking to the rear, with the occasional look round whilst moving. I had avoided using “marks” on the rear window to line up with things to tell me when to turn. They didn’t work with some corners so I had learnt to tell by observation and practice. The examiner was looking to his front steadfastly. I suppose he would know if I botched it! Careful not to straighten too much, bit of a “swan neck” there. Hope it would be okay. Still going back.

“Thank you”, he said. I stopped and put the handbrake on, went into neutral and looked around. Didn’t look too bad.

So long as you keep reasonably close to the kerb and don’t end up on it or near the centre of the road, you will probably be okay. If someone comes right up close behind you after you have turned the corner, but before the examiner has indicated it is finished, wait a moment (not longer), this is to give the examiner a chance to say it is far enough, if he judges it is nearly finished. If he says nothing, then pull forward round the corner and start again, without saying a word. Yes, you should put your seat belt back on to do this, if you had removed it. It is permissible to do this manoeuvre without using the accelerator, using tickover only provided there is no loss of control. This is with a modern car that has an engine management unit (EMU). With a petrol engine, without such a unit, it will probably not be possible, diesels should manage it however.

Remember, perfection is not expected. Do not assume that you have failed if you think it is not perfect. What you regard as an error may actually be extremely trivial, and not marked at all.

“Drive on when you’re ready please, turn left”.