Surprisingly, it is more difficult to drive slowly than it is to drive at highway speeds. Yet, you need to drive slowly to park, turn sharply, back up or move forward in traffic jams.
Low speed manoeuvreing
To drive slowly in an automatic-transmission vehicle, rest your foot on the brake and let the idling speed of the engine move the vehicle, braking as necessary to control the speed.
In a manual-transmission vehicle, you control very low speeds almost entirely with the clutch. Accelerate as for a normal start and hold your engine speed constant. Raise the clutch to the point at which the engine engages with the drive wheels, and stop. Then, ease the clutch up a small amount to move the vehicle. To gain speed, ease the clutch up a little more. To slow the vehicle, push the clutch down a small amount until the engine is again disengaged from the drive wheels.
If the vehicle is on a slope and/or is moving faster than you wish, declutch and brake gently.
You might think that being good at backing is not very important. However, collisions while backing are among the most frequent type of collision. This is due, in part, to drivers who believe that a low-speed activity such as backing is no problem.
Never back a vehicle until you have checked behind it from outside. Children, bicycles, wagons, etc., are not always visible from inside your vehicle.
Begin, as you should for all backing manoeuvres, with the vehicle straight and the front wheels straight.
- From your normal seating position, shift your weight so that you are resting on your right hip.
- Support yourself by placing your right arm along the arm rest or the top of the front passenger seat.
- Grasp the top centre (12 o'clock position) of the steering wheel with your left hand.
- While looking back, begin backing slowly. Within the first foot or so of vehicle movement, check forward. If the front of the vehicle is moving straight back, your front wheels are straight. If the front of the vehicle swings to the left or right, your wheels are not straight.
If the front of your vehicle swings to the left, turn your steering wheel to the left to straighten. If the front swings to the right, turn your steering wheel to the right to straighten. Once you get the wheels straight, move your grip to the new 12 o'clock position.
- Having done this, you know that every time your hand is at 12 o'clock, your front wheels are straight.
- Now, look through the rear window and focus your eyes well back along the path you want to go.
- Move the vehicle slowly backwards. Look and steer where you want to go.
- You will notice that the vehicle turns much more when you are backing because the front wheels are pivoting, or swinging, around the rear wheels. This is called 'front end swing' and is the cause of many backing collisions.
Steering techniques for backing
- Hand over hand
Shift your weight slightly onto your right hip, grasp the steering wheel with both hands and use the hand over hand method to turn the steering wheel. While this method provides good steering control, it limits your ability to see out the back window.
- Hand-to-Hand Steering (commonly called push/pull steering or Zone Steering)
When using this method, your left hand grasps the wheel between 7 and 8 o’clock, and your right hand between 4 and 5 o’clock.
Depending on the direction you turn, your right or left hand pushes the wheel up and the opposite hand slides up, grasps the wheel and pulls down to turn. While the pulling hand moves down, the hand that initially pushed up slides back toward its original position to make adjustments as needed.
The driver should use the area on the wheel between 11 and 8 o’clock with the left hand and the area on the wheel between 1 and 8 o’clock with the right hand regardless of the direction of the turn. Simply reverse the process to bring the vehicle back to the desired path.
Since your hands never cross over the steering wheel, there is less chance of an injury to the face, hands or arms induced by your hands or arms in the event of a frontal crash due to an air bag.
- Palming (Precision backing technique)
Palming is an advanced steering technique that is only used when backing. It is used in situations where both straight line backing and sharp turning are required. This method allows you to turn the wheel sharply while ensuring that your front wheels will be straight when your hand is at 12 o'clock.
Put your left hand at the 12 o'clock position but do not grasp the wheel. Instead, push your palm against the rim of the wheel with enough pressure so that when you move your hand down and around, the wheel turns, put your palm stays on the same place on the wheel rim.