12 minutes | Feb 16th 2021

Episode 168 - The Science of Backing Up

Driving in reverse is a valuable driving skill to have.   Backing up slowly can be a problem but backing up fast is hard and dangerous if not done correctly. With that said, it is by far one of the most valuable driving skills to have, and a Security Driver can acquire. Along with being hard to do, it is hard to teach and, if not taught correctly – dangerous. What makes it hard and hazardous is the definition of fast. How fast you can drive in reverse is limited to the vehicle's gearing; in most vehicles, you can drive as fast in reverse, or a little quicker, as you can in 1st gear. The maximum speed depends on the type of vehicle. Very few get above 25 MPH – 40KPH, and those reverse speeds are an exciting experience.   What creates excitement is that cars are designed to go forward. Automobile suspensions possess a quality known as "caster." Caster is the force that helps to straighten out the front wheels after turning a corner. Caster also gives the car stability while traveling forward. Unfortunately, this stabilizing forward force destabilizes the car while it's in reverse. Also, the difficulty is that while driving in reverse, the steering wheel will not center automatically. If you loosen your grip, it will stay in its last position. This is a characteristic of "vehicles in reverse," which creates an unstable vehicle.   The issue is that since the car becomes unstable while traveling backward, small changes in steering wheel movement cause significant changes in the way the car reacts to your inputs. Of course, the faster you go in reverse, the more complicated control becomes. There is nothing you can do about caster. You need to understand that it's there, live with it and learn to control it.   Also, adding to the excitement of driving in reverse is that the correct direction to move the wheel can be confusing. The problem is mainly perceptual. The proper way to move the wheel is quite simple: Move the top of the steering wheel in the direction you wish the car to move. It's no different from what you do while driving forward; it just feels different in reverse.   Read more
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