Stop Backing into Parking Spaces

Note: This topic is not targeting those drivers who are highly skilled at backing into parking spaces. These comments are for those who have no business doing it. If you don’t know that you lack this skill, and back into parking spots anyway, hopefully someone will read this and tell you to stop.

Why do people back into parking spaces, no matter what the conditions (blizzards, ice storms, torrential rains), no matter where (beach, grocery store, office building)? This may be a silly and insignificant annoyance of mine but I always seem to be the person behind the backer upper. You know who I’m talking about: great-great-grandpa in his gigantic car who can barely see over the windshield and doesn’t realize he probably ran over a few people on the way to the store because he can’t hear and his car is so heavy he thought he hit a small speed bump, if he felt anything at all. Then there is the teen driving the duct tape-and-divots-mobile trying to impress all five of his friends squeezed into the two-door. Don’t forget the slick guy trying to impress his girlfriend as he tries to maneuver his SUV with temporary plates into the parking spot marked “compact” slowly inching backwards between the minivan and the Tundra.

This practice is flawed (again, except for those who have mastered it) because we are not taught to back into parking spaces. When we first learn to drive we are taught the basics like turning your head to the left or right when changing lanes (rather than relying on mirrors) and parking a car – forward – into a parking space, not backward. Why? Because parking forward is safe. You can see where you are going and it’s not likely that the parking space has any obstacles or people in it (except for the occasional shopping cart but that’s another topic). Backing into a parking spot is not safe. The driver disrupts the flow of traffic, usually abruptly, which can lead to other fender benders, and if he is not skilled (and few are) it takes a little time before the car is parked causing additional delay and annoyance for other drivers.

So why do people do it? Some argue that there is no difference between parking forward into a spot and then backing out safely. In fact, some argue that backing into a spot and pulling forward into traffic is safer and quicker. Those that are skilled tend to drive large trucks and claim that it is easier and safer to back into a spot and drive forward into traffic. One of my friends always backs her minivan into parking spaces where there are lots of kids claiming that it is easier to see when you are driving. Other than those exceptions the practice makes no sense.

We are not trained to anticipate the person in front of us disrupting the flow of traffic in both directions by tricking us into thinking he is moving forward only to stop abruptly and back into the spot he just drove past. It usually takes the unskilled driver at least two or three maneuvers before coming to a stop. All the while traffic is backing up in both directions while drivers wait impatiently.

I know there are many of you who think you are experts. You’re not. There likely are very few who have mastered this skill, and only over time, all the while inconveniencing those of us who have the courtesy to do it right. If you want to back into your garage, or into a space in a wide open parking lot where there is no spot behind you, or on your farm, or while gator fishing in the Everglades, then go for it. Otherwise, please stop.

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