Welcome dear reader. It’s a beautiful bright sunny day here in the Philippines, just north of the NCR (Metro Manila) and I’ve got a few minutes to write. My car is comfortably backed into my narrow little carport, all tucked away waiting for me to give the call for action to go somewhere.
Could I ask a simple question? For those of you who drive, may I ask if you are a good driver? Even an expert driver? (Silly question, of course, isn’t it?) especially if you are of the male persuasion it goes without saying that you are good, even better than good. Heck if you’re an Australian, you answer to that question I just asked was probably FIGJAM (no that’s not some other-wordily bread spread like Vegemite, it stands for “F**k I’m Good, Just Ask Me, LoL).
Well, Are You As Good Backing Up?
One thing I have noticed here in the Philippines, in both foreigner and Filipino drivers is, a great many otherwise competent drivers are just no darn good at backing up.
Recently I had a kitchen range picked up by a service tech for repair/overhaul and then delivered back to my house after it was finished. The technician, a man in his forties who drives a small “mommy van” type Nissan earns his living at least 50% of his time on the road, in Metro Manila traffic, so I was shocked to see when I opened my driveway gates and watched in back in (I should say, attempt to back in, he never made it all the way both times he tried) that this guy couldn’t’ back his van into a normal size (2 meters wide) Philippine driveway.
He had no sense of his clearance on either side using his left and right outside mirrors, and wound up being stopped by his helper (who was trying to direct him) both times with the van crooked as a dog’s hind leg, only part way into the driveway, and inches from striking the driveway wall with a rear corner of he van.
If he just knew how to back up using his outside rear view mirrors he could have easily backed more than two van-lengths farther toward the rear of the house. Instead he and his helper had to carry the heavy restaurant-size range probably 40 feet farther than they had to.
Do you routinely drive forward into a driveway? Yes, well sometimes do I. But there are many times backing in is much smarter, and if you’re not as comfortable backing in as you are pulling in forward, then there’s a very useful skill you should practice to prepare yourself for Philippines driving.
Reasons To Back In
- When you are going to load/unload from the rear of the vehicle
- When the driveway is narrow
- When the street is narrow too, and you can’t “swing wide” in a huge “wagon turn” that so many American drivers are used to.
- When you are concerned about safety backing out into traffic. You can see and maneuver ever so much better driving forward than backing out blind
- You can back in to a space much tighter than you can drive forward into. (don’t believe me? Read on)
And in the Philippines, getting into really tight parking slots and driveways may mean the difference between parking or having to drive on somewhere else. Parking is frequently chaotic and almost always TIGHT.
Why You Can Get In Backward Where You Can’t Get In Forward ?
Here’s the main reason. An overhead view of an average car. Notice the two circles, one bigger, one much smaller (tighter). The outer circle is the path the car’s front wheels will follow with the steering wheel turned all the way. You car’s minimum turning radius shown as a “turning Circle in other words. On most smaller cars like you’ll be driving here, your “turning circle” will be about 7 or 8 meters in diameter … while something like a Ford F-150 has a turning circle over 12 meters (nearly 42 feet). But the overall size doesn’t really matter. Of course a much larger vehicle is going to need a larger space to turn.
The key to what we are talking about id the smaller, inside circle. That is the circle that your REAR wheels are going to travel on. Look at the size of the inner circle compared to the outer. The rear wheel’s turning radius is roughly half the radius of the front wheel’s.
Puling In Forward Needs More Room
So if we look at our “Pull in parker” example, in order to start his turn =from a position where the car can “”pull in forward in one “sweep”. the turn has to start at a minimum of half the turning circle’s size away from the parking slot. Often, this is way, way more space than you are going to have available. If you are going to try to drive straight in you are going to wind up having to try to keep your left front corner VERY close to the car on the left, and you are in danger of being “jammed” where the right rear side is getting too close to the obstruction on the night … you have to back up.
And you are in an awkward position to back up too, because when you swing your steering wheel you bring that troubles right rear away from the car on your right, well you are also bring i=the whole car more to the right, and you’re backing up semi-blind to all the other vehicle and foot traffic trying to pass in the narrow access lane they think you just vacated. I don’t know about you, but I HATE to be in that situation … it’s no fun.
Backing In Needs Less Space
Now take a look at our smart “backer-inner” driver.
S/he can start the turn from way closer to the car on the right. The right side can be kept close .. very close to the car on the right, and every foot the car is moving back gives more and more clearance for the left front corner to swing out on its wider circle.
And suppose the space is so tight that even backing in you find you are not turning quite sharp enough?
Well you can pull forward and then turn the wheel fully and make another attempt … and the front of your care never really gave up the parking lot lane/street that you are leaving, plus you can see pedestrians and such, so everyone will have no choice except to wait until you make another stab or two at the parking slot.
Just as in many social situation here in the Philippines, “Bulling” your way forward is not always the way to go, sometimes you can get way ahead of the game by backing up.