Common sense provides these basic rules when parking and leaving your vehicle on a roadway, driveway or in a parking lot.

  • You must stop the engine
  • Lock the ignition
  • Remove the key, and
  • Set the brakes.

It is also advisable to raise the windows and lock the doors.

Parking Lots

CREDIT: Parking Tutorial, Bay Parking Lesson

Parallel Parking on Streets and Roadways

CREDIT: Parking Tutorial, Parallel Parking Lesson

When parking on a two-way highway you must park parallel to and within 12 inches of the curb or edge of the highway. The steps for parallel parking are:

Check for traffic in your rear view mirror. If a car behind you is following too closely, do not stop suddenly. Continue driving and find another space. Stopping suddenly with a car behind you may result in a rear-end collision. Put on your turn signal to warn other drivers that you intend to park.

Signal and stop with the back end of your vehicle even with the back of the vehicle in front of the place you want to park.

Back slowly, turning your steering wheel to the right to aim the back of your car towards the front of the one behind you.

As the front of your car clears the back of the car in front of you, turn your wheels sharply to the left and continue backing slowly until the back of your car almost touches the car behind you.

Straighten your wheels and pull forward to center the car in the parking space. Your car should be no more than 12 inches from the curb. Put the transmission in park and set the brake. Turn off the engine. (It is against the law to leave keys in a running, unattended vehicle.) To park by the left-hand curb on a one-way street, follow the same directions but reverse right and left in the instructions.

Parallel Parking on Hills

CREDIT: Esurance, How to Park on a Hill

Other Parking Considerations

Handicapped Parking – It is illegal to park in any parking space designated for “Handicapped Parking” unless your vehicle has a handicapped license plate displayed on the rear of the vehicle or a handicapped parking ID card displayed hanging from the rearview mirror.

Parking Lights – When you park a vehicle on the shoulder or side of any highway from sunset to sunrise or when light is insufficient to see persons or objects 1000 feet away, you must turn on your parking lights (or 4-way flashers when vehicle is so equipped). Turn signal lights shall not be flashed on one side only of a parked vehicle.

Parking on Highways – You must never park on the paved or traveled part of any highway outside of a business or residence unless vehicle is disabled and cannot be moved. Pull off to the right as far as possible.

Opening Door of Parked Vehicle – You must never open door of vehicle so as to impede the flow of traffic or endanger any person or vehicle. Instead, use door on curb side. Turn and check for any oncoming vehicle if you must use the door on the street side. Be especially aware of oncoming bicyclists; they may be severely injured by a collision with a car door.

Stopping and Parking Violations

Unless otherwise posted, ordered to do so by a police officer, or to avoid an accident, you must not stop or park your vehicle in any of the following places even if someone is left in the car:

Fire Lanes – We all know that parking in a fire lane is illegal. Yet, many drivers do just that every day.

Fire Lane Parking

The space outside of a business is not a loading zone if it is designated as a fire lane; it is not a special use parking space, nor is it a place to wait for passengers to exit the building.

Other areas that you need to be alert and aware of prohibited parking areas:

  • At any place where official signs prohibit such action.
  • Wherever curb is painted yellow, or a yellow line is placed at the edge of a roadway.
  • In an intersection, on a crosswalk, or within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection.
  • On a sidewalk.
  • In front of a public or private road, driveway, or alley.
  • Within 15 feet of a fire hydrant.
  • Within 20 feet of driveway entrance to any fire station or on opposite side of street within 75 feet of entrance when signs are posted.
  • Within 30 feet of any flashing beacon, stop sign, or traffic signal.
  • In an intersection, on a crosswalk, or within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection.
  • Between a safety zone or island and the adjacent curb, or within 30 feet of end of safety zone or island unless otherwise posted.
  • Alongside or opposite any road excavation or obstruction when traffic will be impeded.
  • On roadway side of any vehicle stopped or parked at the curb.
  • On any bridge or elevated structure on a highway or in a tunnel.
  • At any other place where stopping, standing, or parking will obstruct the free flow of traffic.
  • In the area between roadways of a divided highway, including crossovers.

Danger in the Parking Lot

CREDIT: LYTX, Danger in the Parking Lot

You may be surprised to learn that more vehicle incidents occur per mile driven in parking lots than on public roadways. Often these are low speed incidents involving backing or impact with fixed objects. The repair cost is typically relatively low and the events often go unreported, but the frequency is high.

There are several reasons so many incidents occur in parking lots. Here are a few:

Drivers understand the risks are high while on the roadway, but few recognize risks remain high once off the roadway. Many drivers drop their guard and become less vigilant once they turn off the street and into a parking lot.

Upon entering the lot, drivers are usually focused on seeking a parking spot…not looking for other drivers and objects.

Most drivers pull “head in” into a parking spot. Once in this position, they must then back out. The natural blind areas behind most vehicles, combined with vision obstruction due to vehicles parked alongside, make visibility very difficult.

CREDIT: Brindisi Murad Brindisi & Pearlman

Traffic laws are non-existent. Most parking lots are private property. Hence, drivers often roll through stop signs, travel against the directional arrows or cut between parked cars. Vehicles can be coming from any direction…any time.

Putting all this together, it’s clear the danger doesn’t end once you reach the parking lot.

Some basic tips can be easily applied to keep you out of trouble in this high risk environment:

When possible, avoid backing. Consider a space one or two rows away that will allow you to pull through to the front of a parking stall. Most drivers seek the closest spot to their destination. This usually results in a head-in parking spot and also places us where there is the most activity. There may be a “pull-through” spot just a few feet farther away that will allow you to avoid backing and place you away from the activity.

If you can not find a “pull-through” spot, you should back into a space. Remember, it’s always a good idea to get out and take a look. DO NOT RELY ON A DASHBOARD BACK UP CAMERA!
If you have a passenger, ask them to get out and guide you. Nothing irks a car owner more than learning that the driver has backed into something and there was a passenger who didn’t get out to assist with the backing maneuver.

Move very slowly. There are simply too many people, vehicles and objects to identify and respond to. Slow speed buys the time we need to safely see, think and do. The majority of drivers back or travel through parking lots too fast. This compromises your time to adequately scan and reduces the time other drivers and pedestrians have to react to your presence.

Get the big picture. Constantly scan front, rear and side to side. Many times motorists fail to see a threat coming from one direction because they are fixated on just one view.

Just about everyone’s had an accident in a parking lot and they are almost always preventable. It will be less likely to happen again if you apply the seeing and thinking skills we’ve described above.