Way to park

After several readers responded to an earlier article about driving skills I thought I would re-visit the habit of driving into versus backing into a parking stall.

Some readers told me they prefer to drive into a stall because they can see what they are doing and they are more comfortable always moving forward. Other readers were in favour of backing into parking a stall as an empty stall is void of other vehicles and the surrounding cars are already stationary. Drivers in favour of backing in also favour the clear view when faced with simply driving out into a lane of traffic and feel this is the safer way to drive. One reader pointed out that to find a spot where one can simply drive in and then drive out was pure parking heaven.

I always back into a spot if given the choice. My work vehicle, an SUV modified to accommodate a police dog, does not have great sightlines for backing up because of the stainless steel kennel installed in place of a rear seat. I have to rely on my side-view mirrors when backing up and it is far easier to reverse into an empty stall than to back out of one and into potential traffic and/or pedestrians. It is also safer and easier when I need to make a hurried exit when required at an urgent 911 incident — I can simply throw the SUV into drive and go.

Then there is my personal vehicle, the choice of which was impacted by my employment — transporting a police dog and all the required gear around is not a task suitable for a compact car. Gone are the days of a $30 fill-up at the gas station (I used to drive an old Toyota Corolla and loved it … but who am I kidding? These days even a small car costs more at the pump) as I now drive a big pickup truck capable of hauling all my dog-related stuff to and from work. Yes, it is a nice vehicle and I’ve enjoyed the perk of driving something new for once, but I still miss being able to get into any parkade, anywhere, anytime. Now I have to pay attention to height requirements. That said, when I do manage to squeeze the pickup into a parking lot I always back into a stall as it is far easier to drive out of a stall than to try to reverse out of a tight spot.

I went a step further and typed “backing into parking stall” into my Internet search engine to see if there was any useful information available to anyone trying to master this skill. I spent some time reading the instructions and ended up with a headache after trying to decipher what in the heck the instructions were trying to explain! Here’s an example: “Drive past the stall and count three lines and line up your side mirror with the three line you remember you count one line after you go past the stall not the first line to the stall you want to go into the next one.”

Uh, pardon me? I’m sorry, but those sound more like instructions on how to end up getting stopped as a suspected impaired driver.

There are going to be varied responses and opinions on driving into versus backing into parking stalls and there are going to be pros and cons for each side of the debate. Being a good driver comes with practice, common sense, a will to learn and a certain amount of skill, and it is OK if you are not comfortable backing into a parking stall. You just need to be extra aware of your surroundings when leaving your parking spot to ensure you can do so safely.

Vancouver police constable Sandra Glendinning blogs at behindtheblueline.ca. Her opinions aren’t necessarily those of the city’s police department or board.

Photograph by: Bruce Stotesbury, Victoria Times Colonist