Pop Quiz: Is It Safer to Back into a Parking Space?

Which is safer – backing into a space, or driving straight in, which requires you to back out?

Think you know the answer?

Modern technology, such as backup cameras and assistive parking systems, makes backing into spaces safer and easier. Yet, many people are still reluctant to back into a space and prefer pulling forward instead. But that means you will have to back out of the space when leaving.  When backing out, the vehicles parked beside you may block your line of sight of approaching traffic.

The potential for collisions and injuries when backing out of a parking space can be as serious as any other type of collision.

The fact is that backing into a parking space so that you can pull forward when leaving is actually safer and can help reduce your risks of injuries to yourself and others. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends all drivers back into parking spaces whenever possible.

Parking Lot Car Accidents

While many people consider parking lot accidents as a minor inconvenience, the statistics may surprise you. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), non-traffic accidents such as parking lot crashes are responsible for over 1,500 deaths each year, and as many as 90,000 injuries.

These accidents may involve single vehicle accidents in which a driver hits a pedestrian or runs into stationary objects, such as utility poles, guardrails or fences, as well as accidents involving multiple vehicles, in which one driver runs into another, potentially causing injuries to the occupants of both vehicles. Depending on the rate of speed, parking lot accidents can be just as damaging as other types of motor vehicle accidents, with injuries including the following:

  • Muscle and tendon strains, sprains, and tears;
  • Broken bones and fractures;
  • Serious cuts and lacerations;
  • Back and neck injuries, including whiplash and herniated disks;
  • Head injuries, including concussions and traumatic brain injuries.

Of the total number of people injured as the result of driveway and parking space accidents, more than 40 percent were injured as the result of drivers backing out of their spaces.

Common Causes of Accidents in Parking Lots

According to the AAA, as many as two thirds of all American drivers continue to pull into parking spaces headfirst, despite the fact that backing in has been shown to be safer. Backing into a parking space, while requiring a few extra seconds, the use of hazard lights, and a certain amount of skill, is safer than parking forward facing. It allows you to pull directly out, making it easier to view any potential oncoming cars or pedestrians.

Part of the problem with backing out of parking spaces is the size of the surrounding vehicles in the parking lot. They limit a driver’s ability to see approaching vehicles while backing out. The depth of the parking spaces and blind spots on either side of the vehicle also restrict a driver’s field of vision.

The AAA reports that even rear movement safety devices that allow you to view what is going on behind your vehicle have limitations that can make detecting certain obstacles while going in reverse difficult. AAA’s testing of drivers attempting to back out of parking spaces using rear assistive devices revealed the following:

  • In 48 percent of tests, passing motorcycles were not detected;
  • In 40 percent of tests, bicyclists were not detected;
  • Passing vehicles were undetected 30 percent of the time.

Car accidents in parking lots involving pedestrians can be particularly dangerous. AAA testing shows that rear assistive devices fail to detect adults or children crossing the rear area of a vehicle in more than 60 percent of the tests.

Parking Lot Safety

There are numerous video tutorials online if you are unsure of how to back into a space, as well as assistive devices available in late model vehicles that make reversing almost effort free.

DrivingTips.org offers numerous tips on driving safely, including instructions for safely backing into a space:

  • Put on your hazard lights, and pull three spots ahead of the parking space you intend to back into;
  • With your car in reverse, turn your wheel in the direction of the space while easing slowly off your brakes;
  • Continue to turn your wheel as you back up until you are in line with the parking lot space. Use other vehicles around you for visual clues as to whether your vehicle is straight;
  • Slowly pull into the space, using your side windows to make sure you are within the space lines;
  • Look in your rearview mirror and pull back as far as you can into the space, without bumping into the curb or other vehicles.

In cases in which you are unable to back into a space, there are steps you can take to increase your parking lot safety and avoid accidents involving pedestrians. Back over prevention tips from the NHTSA suggest that you remain aware of any children or other pedestrians in the area, physically turn and look behind you while reversing in addition to using rearview mirrors, go slowly and remain aware of blind spots. You should continue to check your sight lines through your windows and mirror throughout the process until you are safely out of the space.

Reach Out to Us for Help

If you or someone you care about is injured as the result of a car accident, contact our experienced car accident attorneys today. At the office of Hardison & Cochran, we provide the aggressive legal representation to assist you in seeking the compensation you need to recover from your car accident. We serve clients in Raleigh and throughout the North Carolina area. Call or contact us online today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Hardison & Cochran was established based on the conviction that a modern approach was essential in today’s legal landscape. Focused on delivering exceptional results through a skilled team, the firm prioritizes personal attention, integrity, and client needs. Each attorney, paralegal, and staff member is dedicated to this vision. Over three decades, with Ben Cochran overseeing daily operations, the firm has evolved into a highly respected practice.

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