We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Take steps to reduce parking perils

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, September 30, 2011

Whenever possible, park close to an exit. When you take the last spot available against a curb, it guarantees that only one vehicle will be parked beside yours. Back your vehicle into the space or use a drive-through space.

Without question, parking lots are the scene of more vehicle mishaps than any other location in our regulated traffic system. It is a simple fact that most of the parking-lot vehicle mishaps involving damage to one or more vehicles go unreported to insurance companies. Drivers would rather come to an agreement on damage payment among themselves than pay a hefty penalty upon the renewal of their insurance policy each successive year.

Here are some tips that will go a long way to preventing collisions in parking lots.

When entering a parking area, always plan your exit. Whenever possible, park close to an exit. When you take the last spot available against a curb, it guarantees that only one vehicle will be parked beside yours.

  • Most vehicles in North America, 80 per cent to be exact, have a lone occupant, the driver. For this reason, try to position your driver door beside the passenger door of the vehicle beside your car. Eighty per cent of the time, only the driver door will open. Damage to your vehicle doors can be avoided in this way.
  • Avoid backing out of a parking spot. Always back into a parking space wherever possible. Professional drivers park this way. This small adjustment will likely reduce your driving incident rate by as much as 30 per cent. It will be much easier to leave a parking space when you are facing the direction you wish to go. Take a drive-through space as often as possible.

If you must park in an angle space, try to choose the first space. This will give you the best visibility when leaving that very space. Angle spaces on the left side of the roadway do not give as much visibility when exiting as those on the right side of the street. These angle parking spaces usually require a reverse move to enter traffic. Anytime reverse gear is used, drivers should tap the horn twice. The sound of the horn will warn anyone within earshot that a vehicle is backing.

  • The fewer turns made in a parking lot the better. When trolling for a parking space, make as few directional changes as possible. Be predictable in every case.
  • Use the idle speed when looking for a space or leaving one. Since drivers have to mesh with pedestrian traffic in parking lots, it is best to travel at a slow concerted speed equal to the average speed of a pedestrian walking.

Parkades present different hazards for drivers. They have to be much more accurate when positioning vehicles. The concrete construction creates more blind spots than in open-area parking lots. Confined space causes other related concerns, security being one of them.

The choice of a parking space is often a twofold concern for drivers and their passengers’ safety and security. It is best to park in an open and clearly visible area to discourage the threat of theft, vandalism or assault. If the lot is near capacity, look for a space close to high pedestrian traffic areas. People walking in the parking area often serve as an unofficial security service. Parking close to the store entrance is a good idea, but not always an option. When parking spaces are at a premium, take the ones close to the entrance and exit of the lot, plainly visible to passing pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Park your vehicle under a streetlight after dark. Security cameras are a deterrent against illegal activity as well.

Vehicles driven by professional drivers are easy to identify in any parking lot.

They incorporate all of the simple but effective personal and placement measures noted above. Every driver would do well to park like a pro.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and the Interior of B.C.

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