Let my eight years’ experience investigating the cause of car accidents assure you that backing into parking spaces or pulling through so you are parked front-end-out is the way to go. Videos at the bottom of this page demonstrate both parking techniques. Backing up is always dangerous. I avoid it when I can. If I have to back up, then I prefer to do it toward parked cars rather than toward moving cars. Pulling forward is preferred, but not always possible.
Parking lot accidents are the most common type.
It’s a fact. From 1999 to 2002, my office received all the claims involving motorists insured by Farmers Insurance who lived in San Bernardino and Riverside counties in California. We received more parking lot accidents than any other type. My conversations with adjusters at other insurance companies confirmed that parking lot accidents are the most common type.
Most parking lot accidents happen when backing out of parking spaces.
I recorded detailed statements from all drivers, passengers and witnesses as part of my investigation into the cause of traffic accidents. Later, in my role as a panelist for Arbitration Forums, I reviewed hundreds of transcripts of other adjusters’ recorded statements. It’s a fact. Most parking lot accidents happen while drivers are backing out of parking spaces. If you pull through or back in, then you can go forward as you leave the parking space into the aisle full of other moving cars. If you are moving forward as you leave your parking space, then you are more likely to see cars moving down the aisle. They have the right of way as they are in an aisle and you are leaving a parking space. Be careful to avoid them, of course. It will be easier to avoid them moving forward than backing out.
The person backing up is almost always found at fault.
The driver going forward has the right of way. It is much safer to leave a parking space moving forward. If you can at all avoid it, don’t back up. If both drivers are backing up, adjusters often settle the fault at 50 percent on each driver, or 50/50. Pull through to a space that faces the aisle, whenever possible.
It is safer to back into parking spaces than to back out.
Only back into parking spaces if you cannot find a place to pull through, meaning only single spaces with parked cars in front of them remain. This way, when you back into parking spaces, the cars you back toward are standing still. When you back out of a parking space, the cars you back toward are often moving forward down the aisle. You are more likely to hit moving cars, and since these cars are moving forward, they have the right of way.
Pull Forward Concern
A reader wrote in to say pulling forward was dangerous. He said people in the other aisle don’t expect you to pull forward and so there will be a head-on collision. My response to this is in eight years adjusting auto accident claims I never once saw a claim where this happened. I just asked my supervisor Jennifer Tilt if she ever saw a claim like this and she hasn’t, either. I also never saw a claim where this happened during the two years that I arbitrated claims disputed among insurance companies. Cars pulling forward are moving forward. The driver of a car moving forward can see if someone is coming and stop before there is a collision.
Why You Should Care
It is rare, but people do get injured in parking lot accidents. You could injure or kill a pedestrian while backing out of a parking space. You are far less likely to injure anyone if you back in to the parking space or pull through instead. Accident-free discounts will be taken off your account, increasing the premium that you pay for your insurance, if you get into a parking lot accident. This will cost you money. Any accident inconveniences you with having to deal with repairs and rental cars. You probably have a deductible on your collision insurance, which means an accident will directly cost you $500, on average.
Video: Back Into Parking Spaces How To
The beginning of this video is a commercial for Allstate Insurance. After that, a guy demonstrates and explains how to back into a parking space.
Video: Pull Through to a Forward Parking Space
Most of this video is silly, but it is the only pull through video I could find on YouTube. Pull throughs as I discuss them in this article are demonstrated from 0:23 to 0:35 in this video.
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