Parking Lots are Hazardous Places

Backing UpI had a bit of a scare the other day when I tried to back out of a space in a busy parking lot. There was a large van beside me blocking my view so I scanned as completely as I could and began to let up on the clutch. No sooner had I started to roll than a woman paying more attention to her smart phone than where she was walking appeared from behind the van. We both slammed on the brakes and after looking at each other for a moment, she continued on her way.

I wondered just how dangerous parking lots were, so I asked about it and ICBC provided me with data for the five year period from 2011 to 2015. During that time there was an average of 2 deaths, 5,900 injuries and 120,000 property damage incidents each year. Parking lots do appear to be hazardous places!

Returning to my near miss with the pedestrian it occurs to me that most parking lots are designed only with vehicles in mind. Even then, the object seems to be to get as many vehicles into the lot as possible, crowding them together. The lane between lines of vehicles seem to be narrower as well.

There are usually no safe places to exclude the path of pedestrians from the path of vehicles.

Would it not be better to have a sidewalk with a row of parking on either side of it? You could park and walk safely between the rows of vehicles to and from the businesses. Vehicles would be prevented from crossing the level sidewalk area by curbs and the curbs would have gaps in them to allow you to move the shopping cart to your vehicle’s side doors.

I imagine that the biggest drawback to this design would be the difficulty with snow removal.

For my part, there were at least two things that I could have done to make this safer for the pedestrians. Backing into the parking spot would have afforded a better view when I tried to leave it and a gentle tap or two on the horn just before I moved would likely have called attention to me too.

The woman should not have been intent on her phone while walking along the edge of the corridor between vehicles. She could instead have been watching for illuminated backup lights that would tell her she needed to make eye contact with the driver before she walked behind the vehicle displaying them.

What really scares me is the possibility that the pedestrian could be a child that was a bit ahead of their parent. Since I don’t have a backup camera, it’s possible that they would not be taller than the top of my tailgate and I could drive over them without knowing anything was wrong until I felt the bump. That’s far too late.

From now on, I’m taking my own advice. If I can’t pull through the spaces to be nose out, I will be backing into my parking spot. There is a much smaller chance of colliding with something backing in than there will be when backing out.

I've read estimates that 50% of collisions (regardless of what was being hit) involve reversing vehicles. Which, if you consider the amount of time/distance spent going backwards (perhaps a thousandth of 1% of distance travelled?) has to make you think.

RISK. The moment you put your vehicle in reverse gear, the potential for collision just skyrocketed, astronomically (that was pretty good, I thought ... ).

Companies and corporations deal with the issue in their own way; for Translink, the rule for their bus drivers regarding reversing is: DON'T.  For Fortis BC, who operate a huge fleet of vehicles, reversing into every parking spot, every time, is mandatory; even if it's a manager, using a company car to take home, regardless of how they might normally enter their own driveway they must back it in.

I once saw a collision count for various areas encompassed by the City of Vancouver and approaches. It listed the Lion's Gate Bridge & Causeway as #1 and the Knight Street Bridge as #3.

#2? Oakridge Shopping Centre Parking Lot. #4? That nice drive around Stanley Park.

Reversing vehicles crash into things, fixed objects, shopping carts, pedestrians, bicyclists, vehicles ... far too often.

Shortly after ICBC (the largest auto insurer in north america) assumed responsiblity for Driver Licensing in this province, they started overhauling the Road Test criteria that were in place; up to that time, the fundamental test for new drivers seeking to gain their solo license only included reversing in a straight line for a short distance, and a parallel park as a backing challenge (usually to a single parked car on a quiet residential street) as a requirement; so long as the Applicant didn't hit the parked car, or reverse over the curb, they weren't going to fail on this issue, although inadequate observation before and during the maneuver would count against them with demerit points.

But the first and foremost change they made was to include a reverse stall park - in a real parking lot, with other vehicles all around - as a condition of every test. We'll never know how many collisions may have been prevented by this requirement, but it probably numbers in the tens of thousands.

And the silly thing is, a vehicle is far more maneuverable when it's being reversed, as the steering end is now the back end, just like a forklift, which makes parking in a tight spot much easier if it's tackled this way. As well as safer.

If you back into your own driveway you are backing into familiar territory EVERY TIME, if you back out of your driveway you are backing into the unknown EVERY TIME. Which is safer? Why is it so hard for people to see this?

My friends think I'm a bit odd, and sometimes my passenger gets a little impatient (because, really, we all need to be at our destination 3 seconds ago, right?), but I ALWAYS back into parking stalls, regardless of how busy the lot is. And if I'm in a huge, empty lot (usually at Walmart in the USA) and I can pull through one spot to an open spot in the next lane facing the other way, I do that to make my life easier. But the end result is always the same:  I can see what's going on when I leave the spot.

|Yes, Mr. or Mrs. "Ohmygodwouldyouhurryupandpark" are obviously irritated while I'm backing in (I'm a very good parker but, again, seems everyone is late for their Tim Hortons date these days), but I get the same with the added danger factor when I'm backing out, so what's the difference?

I really think it's about the fact that many drivers DON'T think much beyond their immediate need at any time, and thinking beyond that to leaving a busy parking lot is just not something most people do. 

I've seen near fisticuffs as a result of someone taking about an hour to back their vehicle out of a parking stall, only to get trapped with a mess of people all doing the same, hardly any of them looking around and continuing to look around as they're doing it.

Last Sunday at Richmond Centre (in Richmond BC), I made a wide berth around a woman who started backing out just as I approached the rear of her car. When she finished, I approached her window and asked "You didn't even look, did you?" Her response was "Oh, I didn't see you, I only saw the car." Huh? There was no other moving vehicle around us. 

It's not tough:  You either take an extra 10 seconds to back in (SAFE) or you take the same, and likely more time backing out (UNSAFE).

I agree with backing into a parking spot to afford a clear view when leaving.

However! I back into parking spots when possible, because passing people may be distracted, and not watching.

People, even with children, will walk behind my truck, in a parking lot, even when I am backing up. I think they do it because they feel it is their right to walk where ever, you have to watch for them. They do not have to watch for you. Anyone will tell you, the person backing up is in the wrong, no matter the circumstances.

Notice parking lots like the new Save On at Wembley has a nice pedestrian walk area between parking lanes. Also so does Walmart. This must be a costly thing to do for developers. Should be mandatory when developing a new property.

I drive a Caravan and always try to park nose out in parking lots. I also tend to park away from the doors of the stores, for several reasons. First they are less cars there and therefore less chance of getting bumped or nicked. Third, walking the extra distance give me just a little bit more exercise. And third, it's far more easier to park and leave when there are no cars near!