The parking lot is a unique microcosm of complex and puzzling human behaviors. These wide open spaces are ironically some of the most cramped feeling, and driving at 5-10 km/hour can make people feel as though they’re speeding.
What’s worse, parking lots are full of obstacles; shopping carts, other cars, light posts, pedestrians, community fundraiser BBQ’s - you name it. This can make it difficult to navigate, let alone park safely… or properly. Parking is an important part of driving, and sometimes our parking lot etiquette lags behind our capabilities as drivers.
In this post, we’ll outline some of our best tips for parking lot etiquette, because for some reason, they can often represent the one place where drivers seem to forget some of their driving skills.
One Size Doesn’t Always Fit All
They paint the lines on the ground for a really great reason; they’re guides for your vehicle. Don’t park in between two spaces, or put the front bumper of your vehicle into the parking space in front of you. Parking too close to a neighbouring car, a cart corral, or a lamp post will make it nearly impossible to enter and/or exit your vehicle without scratching of chipping paint on your - or someone else's’ body paneling.
Do your best to park properly in a space that can accommodate your vehicle. If you’re driving a one-ton pickup truck with a crew cab and a long box, consider parking near the back of the parking lot to ensure you don’t damage or inconvenience others. Similarly, if you’re driving a motorcycle, don’t block the sidewalk or entrance platform of the building you're planning to shop in.
Blocking someone else's door, tailgate or trunk is a cardinal sin of parking lot etiquette - using one’s trunk space for goods and entering or exiting the vehicle is the primary function of a parking lot. Be courteous, and don’t make it difficult for someone else to access their vehicle.
Be Conscious of Marked Stalls
We’re not talking about giving up your space to a Ferrari or a Maserati - we’re talking about not parking in the dedicated disabled, family, and expectant mother/parent spaces usually located near the front of the parking lot. These spaces are put in place to help serve those who may have precious cargo and a full set of hands.
Leaving marked stalls for senior citizens with mobility issues, as well as tiny people and their parents have to traverse less busy parking lot, eliminating a potential for accident or injury.
Spatial Sense is Key
Parking is mostly about patience and finesse, rather than break-neck speed and efficiency. Before you approach a parking space, remember to think about your car specifically: how big is it, how tight is the turning radius, have you parked in a spot this tight/small before, etc.
Parking involves a certain spatial sense about your vehicle so you can make good parking decisions, but it also involves spatial sense in another mannerism - knowing what’s around you. When you’re backing up, put the phone down, turn the music down, use your mirrors and look behind you for emerging carts, pedestrians, lampposts, kids, other cars, and whatever else could come your way. Backing up in a parking lot may be one of the most overlooked and crucial practices of parking lot etiquette because it’s on the home stretch, so to speak. People are thinking about getting home and getting back on the road, not always what’s behind them.
Round Up Those Carts
If you find a rogue cart drifting aimlessly in the fall breeze as you’re walking back to your vehicle, round it up and put it in the cart paddock with the other carts. When you take this initiative, you not only limit the chance of a head-on cart/car accident, but you’ll be helping to reduce the likelihood that the cart could run into your vehicle, or other cars causing damage; the karmic implications are vast.
Use your Turn Signals
For whatever reason, drivers in parking lots sometimes neglect one of the most incredible car safety features of all - the turn signal. Using your turn signal in a parking lot is just as important as when you use the turn signal when driving home.
The turn signal allows other drivers and especially pedestrians the opportunity to communicate and interpret your anticipated actions. Give them the courtesy of letting them know your next movement to avoid potential injury, or a less than friendly encounter.
It’s Not a Race
Yes, parking lots are technically private property, and yes, that could mean that speed limits are suggested - but all courteous and respectable drivers have a great responsibility to obey all posted speed limits while driving in parking lots. Potential for accidents are elevated when drivers occupy tight spaces with limited visibility and add speed to the equation.
If no speed limits are posted, assume that the limit is somewhere around 5-8 km/hour. Driving at this reduced pace helps all drivers and pedestrians to avoid injury and mishap. It also prevents against fender benders with another vehicle rounding a blind corner, or backing out of a tight parking space.
Parking lots may not be the most-loved places to drive, but they’re certainly a necessity of modern life. If you plan on driving to the grocery store, pharmacy, daycare, or just to grab a coffee with a friend, you’ll have to park. These tips may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many fender benders and minor accidents could be avoided if drivers simply emboldened their sense of parking lot etiquette.
Driving anywhere is not a right - it’s a privilege that we all must have the utmost respect for. Respect others in your space, and they’ll return the favour - especially in a parking lot.