Beware the parking lot accident

The most sensational crashes usually happen at intersections, or at high speed. And the most common roadway car crash is the rear-end collision. But surprisingly, the highest number of accidents actually happens in parking lots, where space is at a premium. These crashes often go unreported to insurance companies, for fear of an increase in personal and individual rates.

Confined spaces are a challenge at the best of times, let alone when drivers are in a hurry. Always try to avoid backing up whenever you drive. If you must use reverse gear, back into your parking space. It will be easier and safer when it is time to leave the lot.

Make things easy by reducing the directional changes that you make in any parking lot or confined space location. Choose a drive-through space, which will allow you to leave the lot with clear visibility.

The three-point turn is a popular but often an unnecessary manoeuvre. Moving forward, backing and proceeding in the opposite direction are time-consuming and involve keen observation with a 360-degree check for every movement. The two-point turn or reverse turn, as it is commonly called, is far more efficient and only involves two directional moves, reversing to an open area and then proceeding in the direction of your choice. Using the horn in every reverse action is a safe and courteous move employed by many professional drivers. A 360-degree check is necessary before any reversing action.

The much-maligned U-turn is legal in many locations and should be done in two parts as well. First, move to a safe, clearly visible area. Do a 360-degree check for vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles. Then proceed in the opposite direction of travel. Where there is insufficient room to do a U-turn, it is advisable to use a reverse turn, since it is necessary to cross the centre line of the roadway only once. For safety and timing reasons, RCMP training officers encourage this move rather than the three-point turn.

Underground and above-ground parkades are often very confined and require careful control and consideration. Always watch the well-placed convex mirrors, strategically located above each sharp turn in these concrete jungles. For personal safety reasons, park in well-lit areas away from large obstructions. Always think about leaving the parking lot when you enter. Remember the general rule of a parking lot, namely the further from the entrance, the less likely your vehicle will be hit or vandalized. Avoid backing out but if you must, choose angle spots, which are much easier to exit. A drive-through parking space is always preferable.

Be particularly careful when backing out of a residential driveway, since children often play on their own property. Many family tragedies happen close to home when moving a vehicle in reverse. If you must park nose in, always walk behind your vehicle before driving away.

Back lanes and alleys are also very dangerous areas in which to drive. The use of the horn tap will warn people hidden in angular pockets in these locations. At night it is acceptable to flash your high beams in order to further warn other drivers and pedestrians.

Most professional drivers never use the accelerator in small spaces. They use the vehicle idle speed to negotiate turns, starts, and stops.

Parallel parking is probably the best protection for your vehicle doors. Even if your car is bumped front or back, the bumpers will protect it. But the danger for the exiting driver is reason enough to consider other alternatives.

Confined spaces and moving in them are a challenge. Be aware and safe.

Steve Wallace is a longtime teacher and owner of Wallace Driving School in Victoria.

Photograph by: Debra Brash, Times Colonist