Most vehicles are designed to go in one direction: forward. As such, while they may have a reverse gear for when you have no other options, the visibility, the seats, the wheels, the placement of the pillars, all of it is at odds with letting you back up safely and easily. That’s why you, the driver, have to pay as close attention to everything as you can while you’re in reverse.
Hopefully, you haven’t made this sort of mistake after your first few attempts, but it bears repeating: if you turn the steering wheel left, you’ll turn right, and if you turn the steering wheel right, you’ll turn left. On top of that, the fact that your turning wheels are at the back of the vehicle instead of the front will completely change the way you turn, which is why you need to leave yourself plenty of room when you back into a parking spot.
Whether you’re backing out of a driveway or out of a parking space, chances are you aren’t backing straight out, which means you need to watch for cross traffic, the cars on either side of your own, and whatever happens to be immediately behind you. Checking your mirrors isn’t enough — you need to turn your head to check all your surroundings for as long as you’re backing up.
An increasing number of vehicles have backup cameras (and they’ll be standard by 2018), and while they can be an incredible help for seeing what’s immediately behind your car or truck they still aren’t a complete replacement for taking a look yourself. A backup camera can’t see the cross traffic you’re backing into, for instance, nor can it see someone approaching from the side of your vehicle.
If your child is in the right age group to be independent enough to run around outside but still young enough to not realize just how dangerous a reversing car can be, then you absolutely need to know whether your child is in your driveway or not. Some resources suggest that you completely forbid your child from even setting foot on a driveway without a parent present, but you should go with whatever feels like the safest way to let your child be independent and safe.
If you’re in a large vehicle, a light truck or something bigger, then you’re particularly unable to see what’s behind you without a backup camera. If there’s someone available, you should allow that person to spot for you to make sure you don’t run into anything important, whether that’s another vehicle or another person.
Reversing can be a lot more dangerous than going forward in most vehicles, and in larger ones it can even be deadly. So take care to find out exactly where everything around you is, because if you don’t, you may end up regretting it.