Backing into a parking space is not the norm in America and is not recognized by most as the better way to park. I’m amazed at the conversations I have been a part of discussing pulling straight into a parking space versus backing in. The number of people that are unsure what makes backing into a parking space better, or safer is astounding!
Me being someone that reverses into a parking space most of the time, I will share the top reasons I choose to most often back into a parking space.
These are 6 VERY CRITICAL reasons you should ALWAYS back into a parking space when possible, including your own garage and driveway at home:
1. Time to View Parking Space Before Backing Up
As you pull past your parking spot to back into it, it gives you a moment to scout the spot and anything in it that may be a hazard. You can judge the size of the space, how close other cars are to you and look around for problems before you start backing immediately.
This in comparison to pulling in to a space nose first, returning to your car and before you get in to drive away behind your car is clear. Then get in your car, set your drink in the cupholder, plug in your phone, start it up, buckle up, and pray in that time some kid didn’t chase a stray ball behind your car.
For safety reasons, it is much better if we all learn to slowly back in to a parking space so we can safely pull out.
2 .Get In and Go After Backing In
First responders always back in to a parking space. They teach that by backing in first, you will be able to quickly get in and go.
By climbing in the car and going straight out you can concentrate on what is in front of you and can quickly be certain that your exit path is clear. Pulling straight out allows you to see exactly where you are going and you save, even just a few seconds in the time of an emergency.
Often in Less of a Rush When You Arrive as Opposed to Leaving
People are far more often in a hurry when they leave home as opposed to arriving home. This is the cause of many accidents and perhaps some of the accidents that I include later in the article, were influenced by leaving in a hurry.
Accidents occur when you are in a rush and backing out of your driveway in a rush is a bad combination. By backing in to the driveway, in those instances where there is a good reason to be safe, driving quickly out of the driveway can be done more safely.
Backing into your driveway, space ,or garage does not eliminate this risk, but does reduce it!
3. Your Car is More Maneuverable in Reverse
Your car is more maneuverable in reverse than it is in forward.
This is the reason forklifts steer by the rear wheels!
You can maneuver your car into a tight space much more easily in reverse than you can in forward. This is also why you see drivers pulling back and forth to line their car up correctly in a space when pulling in forward. A driver experienced at backing in can do so into any small space in one smooth turn.
Pulling straight in, the rear wheels trail behind you causing you to have to over compensate the turn, or make multiple adjustments and risk cutting the corner too tight.
When backing in, since the turning wheels (front wheels) are lagging behind your direction of travel, it causes the vehicle to straighten out as you pull into the spot. This is especially important at the sides of the vehicles closest to the cars on either side of the parking space. A car pulling forward cuts the turn tighter than anticipated. A car in reverse stays aligned with the rear wheels.
The reason us backers park like we do constantly other than the perhaps paranoid emergency/safety reasons is because we have learned that it really is easier backing in.
You’ve got to get as comfortable backing as you are going forward and you will find that you prefer it and can truly maneuver your car more precisely in reverse.
4. Professionals Teach it
Along with all the reasons explained in this article, backing in is so much safer than parking nose in. It’s proven. That’s why most safety driving courses teach it.
Not only do professional courses teach HOW to back in to a parking space, they teach that it is better to back in for the same reasons that I have discussed!
Professional driving courses teach it is better to back in to a parking space, first responders teach it, private businesses teach it, the Smith System teaches it for truck driving, and AAA informs us “that drivers reverse into parking spaces whenever possible, except where prohibited by law or parking lot restrictions.”
Can a company have a parking policy that requires all employees to back into parking spots?
A company may require employees to park backwards in all locations when driving company owned vehicles or on private company property. Some companies require this to reduce the number of vehicles reversing out into a flow of traffic and improve visibility for departing vehicles.
Feel free to search actual professional driving courses. There’s a reason those that back in to their parking spots do it all the time. It is taught by the pros!
5. Reduce The Risk of Hitting Someone
Some may say there is no difference in backing up before or after you park since you still cannot see behind you when you back into the space. It is true it is still difficult to see behind the vehicle. The difference in backing into the space is that you are doing it IMMEDIATELY after inspecting the area and ensuring that it is clear.
You are only leaving the back of your car vulnerable to someone walking behind it for three seconds as opposed to all the time that you are away from the back of your car if you get in, buckle up, turn on your car. By backing into the parking space you reduce the chance of hitting someone or something because you have had a moment to scout out the spot immediately before backing in.
When backing out of a parking space, you can only rotate your head so far around behind you. This makes it nearly impossible to keep track of traffic and pedestrians or cyclists coming from all directions. Also once you are parked front first, the driver seat is positioned in a location less than ideal to be able to see around vehicles parked on either side of you. When backing out of a parking space you have no visibility of the majority of what is going on.
Since you have to back up at some point, it will greatly reduce the risk of hitting someone if you regularly back into a parking space as opposed to always backing out into the busy road/parking lot.
Take a moment to survey the parking space when driving by and you see that it is clear of people, and then swing the front of the car away to line up the car for the parking approach. When you eventually leave the space, you have a full 180 degree view out the windshield to safely drive out.
Tragic Accidents Backing Out of Driveways
Many, many awful accidents have occurred where often a small child or adult have been hit, run over, and killed by a driver backing out of a driveway.
Too many of these stories are easily found in the news and although they make me sad to even read them, I must share a few to provide us all with the reminder to slow down, and that these small accidents can be avoided by taking extra caution when backing up a vehicle.
Backing in to a parking spot can reduce the number of accidents that happen in the future.
Visibility is very difficult out the back of a vehicle and it can easily happen that a small dog, or a toddler suddenly runs behind the vehicle without being noticed. Or someone walking behind a car all of a sudden crouches to tie their shoe goes unnoticed by the driver all the way at the front of an SUV.
Everyone should back in to their driveway at least! Because it is so common for neighborhood kids to play out front, or bikes to pedestrians to be walking on the sidewalk between your house and the street. Do all that you can to avoid an accident like any of these:
- 3 year old boy dies after being hit by truck backing out of driveway. May 8, 2021 in NY. Read at abc news.
- Father accidentally runs over 18-month old toddler, killing him near Barrington. April 21,2021 in IL. Read at Chicago Tribune.
- 15-year-old girl run over by truck while sunbathing in driveway. Aug 10, 2014 in Utah. Read at Fox news.
- 2-year-old dies after struck by father’s vehicle. Michigan in May 11, 2020. Read at abc news.
I have only included these four accidents of many very sad accidents. I was shocked to find so many news stories of kids in the U.S. getting hit by vehicles backing up in just the last few months. I do not care to review all of the saddening stories but rather hope to highlight the fact that we can avoid future accidents like these.
This last report, includes that the boys father was backing INTO the driveway. There are many instances where accidents happen backing into a driveway, or into a parking space and I want to include this accident because backing in does not guarantee safety.
These stories provide us a CRITICAL reminder to keep in mind what is important, to slow down, take extra precautions whatever they may be to drive your vehicles safely.
6. Backing Up a Car is a Simple Skill
Certainly we all want our families to be safe and avoid any driving accidents. Even if you agree with me that backing your car into a parking space you may not yet agree that it is easy. But it truly is. In fact backing up a car is a skill that is required to have when taking a driving test.
All that you have to develop is the practice to position your car in the right position to back it in to its space in one shot. Between now and then you may have to work through a few parking tries where you have to readjust the car two or three or four times to get it parked correctly. Just start now and you’ll get it.
To be taken seriously as a good driver you need to be able to back in with only minor corrections. Practice in an empty parking lot if you need! It requires practice like any driving skill but once mastered, you will find it to be so much easier and is a skill that everyone should develop.
When to Not Back Into Parking Spaces
Pulling in backwards into a parking space can be difficult in some circumstances and is not necessary or superior in some conditions.
1. Parking Straight in Diagonal Parking Spaces
Of course when you are driving through a one way parking lot with diagonal parking spaces, it makes most sense to pull into the parking space nose first. Otherwise if you were to park in front facing out, you would pull out going the wrong direction in the parking lot.
Like AAA recommends, “When faced with angled parking, drivers should follow the flow of traffic and pull forward into the parking space.”
2. Parking Straight in a Crowded Parking Lot
Occasionally a standard parking lot may be extra crowed and you may not be able to maneuver your car around other vehicles easily enough to park in the space. Even if a parking lot is crowded, if it is possible to navigate into the parking space in reverse, do it! These can also be the more important environments to back in to.
A crowded parking lot may also be a place where a line has formed for cars to fill the occasional open parking space. When it is your turn for a space, there is often not enough time to back in to the spot without having someone take it!
Which, by the way, be a good driver and take the parking space when it is your turn. Never steal someone’s parking space when they have been waiting longer than you!
3. It May Feel Difficult to Back In to a Parking Space
Practice in an empty parking lot or another quiet situation to become comfortable enough to park in a busy parking lot. It may feel difficult if you are holding other people up and with a bit of practice you will overcome this.
Use your blinker if you fell people are going to be annoyed that you are backing in to a spot or if they are not giving enough room behind you. People need to use their blinker more. Communicate where you are going and it will help keep other drivers from getting upset.