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Avoid a Parking Lot Accident with These Tips

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that about 20 per cent of vehicle accidents that cause damage take place in parking lots. One of the major sources of parking lot damage occurs when backing out of a parking spot, but this number is expected to drop following a recent Transport Canada regulation mandating that all new cars and small trucks must be equipped with rear-view cameras starting in May 2018, following a similar decision by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the U.S.

Reverse parking and other tips to avoid accidents in public parking lots:

  1. Reverse parking – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S. estimates that “267 people are killed and 15,000 injured each year by drivers who back into them, usually in driveways or parking lots.” While new regulations around back-up cameras are expected to help with this problem, the fact remains that it will be years before most vehicles on the road have this equipment. In the meantime, take the time to learn about reverse parking, and back into your parking spot whenever possible. You have far greater visibility pulling forward out of a parking spot than reversing.
  2. Don’t drive in circles – Many will drive around a parking lot searching for a spot closest to the entrance, but this is where traffic is heaviest and you’re more likely to collide with another vehicle. Instead, look for a spot that you can pull through with no reversing required. The less you have to drive in reverse the better – so consider those drive-through spots as the parking lot jackpot – they’re worth walking a few extra steps.
  3. Stay in your lane – Even though some parking lots are private property, drive as if the rules of the road still apply. We’ve all seen drivers that cut diagonally across the parking lot to get where they’re going. Don’t be one of them – stay in the designated lanes and turn as you would in a normal driving situation.
  4. Choose your neighbour -- If you have a choice, park next to a four-door car rather than a two-door. Two door cars have longer, heavier doors meaning they’re more likely to ding the car beside them.
  5. Stay away from cart-stalls – When you’re parking in a grocery store lot, try and avoid the stalls where people return their shopping carts. People tend to just push their cart towards the stall, and nothing says a ding-and-run quite like a runaway shopping cart.
  6. Slow down – Just because you’re following proper driving rules, stopping at stop signs, backing into spots (pulling through when you can) that doesn’t mean that other drivers are doing the same. Drive defensively and SLOWLY so you’re prepared to react quickly to unexpected risks.

Reverse parking steps:

Learn to back into your parking spot in six easy steps:

  1. Drive past the vacant spot
  2. When your car is halfway past the spot, start turning your wheel AWAY from the spot
  3. Drive forward, pointing the back of the car towards the open space
  4. Shift into reverse, and back up
  5. Keep watching your side mirrors to make sure you’re clear on both sides
  6. Once you’re mostly in the spot, pull forward to straighten yourself out

If you are involved in parking lot accident:

  1. Move your vehicle out of the way if it’s safe to do so
  2. If the owner of the other vehicle is present, get as much information from them as possible
  3. If they’re not present, leave a note – it’s the right thing to do, plus it helps prevent you from being charged for leaving the scene of an accident
  4. Call the police if anyone is injured or damage exceeds the provincial limit (i.e. Ontario and Alberta’s limits are $2000 – keep in mind that’s for the damage of both vehicles combined)
  5. Contact your insurance company

Click here for more details on what to do if you’re ever in a crash.