Sindy knows a lot about professional etiquette, and I admire her work greatly, but I have to disagree with her on this one. Her comment encouraged me to finally write this. Thanks, Sindy!
Backing into parking spaces is safer, easier, and moreÂ efficientÂ than pulling in directly. Although it may give others the impression that you are in a hurry to leave, I feel it gives the impression that you are safe andÂ conscientious–which I think are both an important part of presenting yourself in a professional manner.
Backing in is SAFER. When I tell people this, they initially think I’m crazy, but let me explain myself. You have to put your car in reverse either as you enter the parking space or as you leave. So, you are backing your car at some point in the parking process. Since you have to put your car in reverse at some time, you should do it at the safest time.
There are probably people driving and walking in the parking lot. Each of these could result in an dangerous collision. When you are backing your car, you have the least amount of visibility because you can only look over one shoulder at a time, there are additional blind spots created by the body of the car (usually between the rear window and rear side windows), and if you use mirrors you like have a blind-spot in each of them too. So, the best way to be safe is to either limit the area in which potential collisions can happen and to be better aware of the activity around you–backing-in provides both of these.
When you pull into a parking lotÂ aisleÂ you can see all the other cars and pedestrians that are currently in motion; you have excellent awareness of what is going on around you. You find a spot you want to back in, pull up a few feet ahead of it, and then begin backing into the spot. Once your car begins to enter the spot, it is extremely unlikely that there will be any pedestrians or other cars within that spot with which you might collide. Although you do have to pay attention to how close you are to the cars beside and behind you, they are not likely in motion. As for any other pedestrians or cars in the open aisle, you are in the part of the car that is closest to the aisle and you have an unobstructed view of the aisle. When you are ready to leave the space, you will likewise have the same open view of the aisle into which you will be pulling. You’ll be able to easily see pedestrians, other cars in the aisle, and other cars that are pulling into the aisle. How often have you and a person behind you been backing out at the same time and you’ve either almost collided or both waited a long time for one of you to back out first?
If you pull-in to the parking space, then you have a generally unobstructed view of the space into which you are parking and don’t need to be greatly concerned about what is going on behind your car. The problem comes when you are ready to back out. As you walked to your car, you made a mental note about the other cars and people walking in the aisle. However, by the time you get into the car, fasten your seat belt, start the car, and put it in reverse, the aisle has changed considerably; now you don’t know what is behind you at this point. You likely have cars (or maybe large SUVs or vans) on each side of you that is also obstructing your view. Your perspective is also limited by the fact that you are in the space in the car that is furthest from the opening, you have blindspots, you can only look over one shoulder at a time, and even your mirrors have blind spots. Even if you back out very slowly, you are depending on others to watch out for you more than you are watching out for them–because you can’t see them!
Backing in is EASIER. You may have a hard time believing this one. I’ve had passengers express their surprise when I back into a parking space because they find it difficult. However, as I said earlier, you either have to back into the space or back out of it. You are using the same skill either way–driving in reverse. I find backing easier because when I back in, the wheels that turn the vehicle are at the furthest point in the turn–this gives me more control over the position of the vehicle. Have you ever noticed that when you pull-in to a parking space you often have to back out and then pull back in to either straighten your vehicle or to get it more to one side of the space? When the steering wheels are on the outside of the turn (instead of the inside of the turn) you have much more flexibility and control of the vehicle and you can position it much more accurately.
If you’re nervous about backing in, you probably just need a little more experience. I recommend that you find a parking lot that isn’t busy, find a couple cars that have an empty parking space between them and spend some time practicing backing in. Maybe go with a couple friends and take turns backing between your own vehicles. I think that most people only really need to successfully do this a few times to feel that they’ve got it. It really is easy, you just need to overcome the initial fear.
Backing in is MORE EFFICIENT. When I park, I am usually thinking about the egress–I’m thinking, “How easily and quickly can I leave when it is time to leave?” That doesn’t mean that I’m in a hurry to leave, only that I want to be able to leave in the most efficient manner as possible. For example, when I travel and park at the airport I look for parking spaces that provide both easy access to the exit as well as to the terminal; I’ve likely arrived early and have plenty of time to park, but I want to get back home. 🙂 I can pull forward out of a space faster than I can back out (I have to back out slowly because it’s unsafe, remember?).
Other thoughts on parking and parking lots. I don’t always back-in to parking spaces, but I probably back-in more often than I pull-in. Of course, in angled parking I always pull-in because angled parking is designed to make backing out easier and safer–traffic flows in one direction and by being angled you have a less obstructed view of the aisle. Please don’t drive the wrong way down an angled parking aisle and NEVER pull through in angled parking or else you’ll have to pull out the wrong way which is very unsafe.
Don’t spend time driving around looking for a good parking space. I’ll usually park in the first space I see that is relatively convenient, regardless of how far away from the building it is. I always laugh when I’m walking down the parking lot aisle and the person who was driving in front of me in the aisle is waiting for someone close to the store to back out while I walk past them. Although they start out ahead of me, I still end up in the store long before they do. I would just rather not waste my time sitting in my car in a parking lot (unless there is something really good on the radio 🙂 ).
Handicap parking spaces are for those people who really need them. AÂ lot of people who have the stickers to park there don’t seem to really need to park there. I don’t think these parking spaces were created just so people with physical handicaps can be close to the building to shorten the distance, but rather to decrease the time and effort it takes physically handicapped people to get into the building. People with wheelchairs and walkers need to spend as little time in the elements (heat, cold, rain, and snow) as possible. These people often need extra space around their vehicle for their wheelchairs and walkers. I get so angry when I see people in wheelchairs (or with walkers) slowly making their way across a parking lot because all the handicap spots were taken up by people who were able to walk into the store with apparent little trouble (and then walk 1/4-mile around inside the store with little apparent trouble too). Just because you own the sticker and have the legal right to park there doesn’t mean you always should–try to think of other people. There is a reason the handicap symbol shows a person in a wheelchair.
When you empty your shopping cart, return it to the store or the nearest cart corral. In my opinion, nothing epitomizes laziness more than seeing someone leave a shopping cart in a parking space. You walked 1/4-mile around inside the store doing your shopping, is it really that much more effort to push the cart 50- to 100-feet to where it belongs? It keeps the parking lot looking nicer for the rest of us. If I happen to see that you have left one in the parking lot, I’ll gladly return it for you since I’m walking that way anyway. In fact, if I see you pushing one back I’ll probably ask to take it the rest of the way for you since it will save me some time once I get to the store. Besides, I don’t want to accidentally hit your shopping cart while I’m backing into my parking space. 🙂