Reverse speed: An impractical date with disaster

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Interior cab view of a driver peering over his shoulder as he backs up.

Measuring reverse speed is largely impractical. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Michael Nyika/Flickr)

Driving forward at a high rate of speed can be dangerous even for those with superb reaction time. Now, automakers are beginning to market “reverse speed” as a selling point as electric cars become more prevalent, reports Automotive News. Considering the limited field of vision reverse driving affords, concerns over whether extensive reverse driving should be encouraged are legitimate.

Reverse speed: Impressive or dangerous?

On Oct.  22, 2001, U.K. stunt driver Darren Manning set a Guinness World Record by driving a Caterham 7 Fireblade in reverse at 102.58 mph. Like most world records, the reverse speed record is an oddity and not practical. As standard consumer vehicles like the electric Nissan Leaf hit the market, the lack of a standard transmission means that driving in reverse is just as easy for the electric motor as driving forward.

Only stunt drivers need apply

This electric engine feature has given auto industry marketers another carrot to dangle before wide-eyed consumers, but it may not have any real meaning for the average driver. Stunt driver Terry Grant seemed to think it does, however, which is why he’d planned to put on an exhibition of reverse speed driving in a 2011 Car of the Year Nissan Leaf at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed in Sussex, England. Grant was going to push past 90 mph. However, festival organizers intervened, and Grant’s show was canceled for safety reasons. He had also planned to climb Goodwood Hill in a Nissan Juke while using only two wheels, which would have set a world record.

Grant reportedly removed the reverse speed limiter from his Nissan Leaf, something most average consumers don’t know how to do.

The need for speed in emergencies

It had not been possible for the average driver to operate a standard vehicle with a standard transmission in reverse at speeds exceeding 80, 60 or even 40 mph. With alteration, the electric car has made this possible, but the situations in which one would need to drive in reverse are limited at best. Even in situations where quick acceleration is necessary to avoid an accident, being able to redline the engine while traveling in reverse is excessive, suggests Automotive News.

Parallel parking: A safe reverse driving scenario


Automotive News

2011 Car of the Year

Goodwood Festival of Speed Wiki

Guinness World Records

Nissan LEAF blog

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