Parking Lots

Parking Lot"Are there specific rules of the road for parking lots?" asks a reader. "If so please clarify them." This is an important question, because a parking lot is a hybrid composed of private property and a highway as defined in the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA). Both the property owner and the traffic rules control drivers who use them.

Let's first look at the definition of highway in the MVA. It includes every private place or passageway to which the public, for the purpose of the parking or servicing of vehicles, has access or is invited. This means that a parking lot that you are invited to use is indeed a highway, and that the usual rules that you would obey when driving on a highway apply to you here as well. Failure to obey these rules could result in receiving a traffic ticket or being compelled to attend court for the violation.

A parking lot is also considered to be private property. If entry is prevented in some manner, you no longer have access nor are you invited to use the parking lot. At this point it ceases to be a highway because it no longer meets the definition in the MVA. This allows the property owner to maintain control over their property and you would be expected to not enter or to leave it if required by the owner or the owner's agent.

Finally, what about pedestrians? The MVA puts the onus on drivers to exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian on the highway which of course also includes the parking lot. The MVA also says that pedestrians crossing a highway not in a crosswalk must yield to vehicles. Clearly the smart thing to do is to watch out for each other and not meet in the middle!

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