Driver Knowledge Tests

Should you reverse into a car parking space?

Some car parks have to be reversed into, like these angle parks:

Reverse angle parking – much better visibility than trying to back out into traffic

With parallel parks you would almost always reverse in, but others, such as those in supermarkets or shopping centres are at a right-angle to the traffic passing by. Is it safer to reverse into those so you can drive out forwards?

The answer is undoubtedly yes. With more and more cars having reversing sensors and cameras, it’s become much easier to reverse anywhere, so there is no excuse. You should reverse into parking spaces for these reasons:

  • You control the traffic flow. You have to slow down earlier and clearly signal your intent to turn in. This reduces your chances of being hit from behind. It does hold up traffic more as you are reversing in, but you won’t hold up traffic on the way out
  • You have much more control getting your vehicle into the space. As you are travelling in reverse, you don’t get the ‘cut in’ effect of driving in forwards where you suddenly realise you didn’t turn sharply enough and the side of your vehicle will scrape the one next to you, meaning you have to reverse out and try again (quite dangerous because you can’t see what traffic is approaching)
  • It’s quicker – because you have better visibility when you leave, you will save time, rather than trying to back out slowly into unknown traffic. This is also better if you need to make a quick getaway.
  • Because you have better visibility it’s much safer. When reversing out of a car park, you often have to reverse more than halfway out before you can see both ways. When driving out forwards, you have to come forward no more than a third of your car length. This is much safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • If your car refuses to start (e.g. you’ve left your lights on) you have much easier access to the bonnet when your vehicle breakdown service arrives
  • When the road has a steep camber (i.e. the gradient of the road slopes towards the gutter) it’s easier to drive out in first gear.
  • You use less fuel reversing in. This is because slow manoeuvres when your engine is cold uses much more fuel than when it’s warm. As you’ll be able to drive out quickly, you’ll minimise your time driving slowly while the engine is cold.
  • When you return to the car with your shopping, the boot is on the safest side of the car – you won’t be standing out in the road loading your bags with traffic speeding by.
  • In most vehicles, the height of the rear is slightly more than the height of the front lip, meaning less chance of damage on a kerb
FPV GT has much more ground clearance at the rear than at the front meaning kerbs pose less of a risk when reversing into a space

Are there any disadvantages?

  • If someone is going to steal your car, they can make off with it more quickly.

With a bit of practice, you can master bay parking in reverse. Try in an empty car park first and remember to set your mirrors so that you can judge where you are.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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