How Do You Park In Crowded Lots: Dive Head First, Or Back It Up?

December 11, 2015

Look at any parking lot, and you'll notice two kinds of people: those who, upon finding back-to-back spots, pull through to the other side so they can drive straight out when their shopping errands are done, and those who stop at the dividing line, preferring to back out into traffic.

According to AAA, one of those people is doing it wrong.

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AAA says that drivers should always park so that the fronts of their vehicles are aimed into traffic. For those not lucky enough to find back-to-back spots, that means reversing into a parking space.

Unfortunately, a recent survey suggests that most of us don't play by that rule. Roughly 76 percent of Americans enter parking spaces head-first, which forces them to leave by backing out.

There are good reasons for that of course -- notably, it's easier and faster. It's also far more convenient to load groceries or plants or whatever you've bought into the trunk if it's right there on the aisle instead of jammed against some other vehicle.

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But AAA insists that backing into spots sets drivers up for safer departures, and it points to today's decidedly imperfect rearview cameras and sensors as proof. The organization recently teamed up with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center to test rear cross traffic alert systems, and found plenty of shortcomings in these technologies -- especially when cars were parked between larger SUVs and trucks. According to AAA: 

  • A passing motorcycle was not detected by the systems in 48 percent of tests. 
  • The systems failed to detect a bicycle passing behind the vehicle 40 percent of the time.
  • The systems failed to detect a passing vehicle 30 percent of the time.
  • While not all systems are designed to detect pedestrians, the technology failed to detect pedestrians 60 percent of the time.

Bottom line: rearward safety systems are mean to improve, not replace, safe driving habits. That's something to keep in mind as rearview cameras become required on new U.S. vehicles by the year 2018.

So, which kind of parker are you?

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