Signals When Backing Up Your Car – Stop The Confusion Now

We’ve got a question from a reader about signals when backing up. Even when we use signals when we drive in a forward fashion, we tend to confuse each other. Sometimes we (humans) are signalling “too early” or “too late,” and of course who knows what that means. Many people are confused about what signals to use when you’re backing up. This article will discuss:

  • What turn signal to use when backing up in a straight line
  • What turn signal to use for backing to the left and right (out of a parking stall, as an example)
  • Which way to turn your steering wheel when backing up
  • Checking your white reversing lights

Question: When backing up, which signal should I use?

The answer to this very perplexing question about signals when backing up is this: It’s the same as when you are going forward. In other words if you are going straight don’t signal, if you’re backing to the right, signal right and if backing to the left, signal left.

That way, the other road users around you may better understand where you plan to go.

turn signals when reversing

Signals When Backing Up – Going Straight? Don’t Signal

If you’re backing in a straight line, don’t signal. Same as if you are driving forwards and going straight or not turning. If you signal when backing in a straight line, you will only confuse people.

signal for backing in a straight line

Do You Have To Use Your Blinker When Backing Out?

You should use your turn signal before reversing out of a parking spot, unless you 100% know for certain that there are no other road users anywhere. Legally, we must signal if there is someone to signal to. It’s a good habit to just do it, in case there are road users that you can’t see, but who may be able to see you.

Signals When Backing Up – When Backing To The Right, Signal Right

turn signal when backing right

Signals When Backing Up – Backing To The Left, Signal Left

backing to left signal left

Signals When Backing Up – Not Sure Which Way To Signal?

If you aren’t sure which way to signal when about to reverse, just ask yourself one question:

“Which way am I about to turn my steering wheel?”

The answer is your answer. If you don’t know which way to turn your steering wheel for backing up, read this.

Make Sure Your Reversing Lights Are In Good Working Order

This Is Your Other Reversing Signal

Reversing lights are white lights that are supposed to illuminate on the back of every car. But they use light bulbs, which can sometimes burn out. Make sure to regularly check and make sure these are working.

One of the easiest ways to check them is by reversing up to a window or mirror where you can see your car’s reflection. That’s helpful when you don’t have another human that can check your reversing lights for you.

Additional Backing & Parking Resources

If you need to learn more about driving backwards and parking, refer to the Parking and Reversing category section on this blog.

There are so many articles we’ve written about backing and parking. My favorite one is the Reversing a Car – the Ultimate Guide.

You can also learn about very fun things such as Parallel Parking, Reverse Stall Parking, & How to Park Your Car on a Hill Safely.

In addition, it’s good to also Park Your Car in the Right Gear so that it doesn’t roll away down a hill without you.

These articles and many others – such as this rather epic collection of Road Test Tips – can also be helpful if you’re trying to teach someone how to drive.


The whole backing/parking thing can be very confusing for new drivers. It’s true that we are legally supposed to signal to other road users, including when we are backing up.

If you’re having trouble remembering, just signal whichever way you’re going to be steering. Just like when driving forwards. If you have never driven forwards before, read this article for brand new drivers.

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By Carmen

Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, Canada.


  1. Could not have said this better myself. This is a great article, and I appreciate you taking the time to write it.I have Online Driver’s Ed. Courses Institution in Texas for a long time and have trained many students.There are many things I try and teach drivers on it, and i am going to reference this article.

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