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Cedric Stephens | Parking to reduce accident risk: Face in or face out?

This article was inspired by a minor collision between my car and another vehicle. It is the subject of a claim against the other driver and his insurer.

The mishap occurred at night, a few weeks ago, in a private parking lot. My car was moving at about five to 10 miles per hour. I was trying to find a parking space.

Vehicles were parked on my left and at right angles to the direction in which my car was moving. Some were parked facing in towards the perimeter wall while others were facing out.

As my car approached these vehicles, I looked to see if any of them were about to move out and create a parking space. I focused on their headlamps or brake and/or reverse lights. My daughter, who was travelling in the left front passenger seat, shouted that I should stop. I felt a slight impact.

A car that was parked facing the wall and that gave no indication that it was about to move reversed into the lower half of the left rear door of my vehicle. Surprisingly, the other driver blamed me for the accident even though more than half of my vehicle had passed his and was untouched. Had he looked carefully over his left shoulder, he would have seen the lights from my vehicle’s headlamps.

Scores of collisions like mine occur in parking lots across the island daily. Their frequency, especially in Kingston and St Andrew, is expected to increase. This is because of the number of multistorey office, multihousing, and mixed-occupancy projects with associated parking that are now being built. Some, like existing buildings, will have parking advisory: ‘Park with facing out.’

According to HowStuffWorks, experts say that “for safety and efficiency purposes”, it is usually best to back into a parking space. That is because having a wide field of vision is more important when one is driving out of a parking space than it is when one is driving in.

“When you back in, it’s into a defined space where people are not likely to be,” says Catherine Peterman, an architect who has helped design parking lots across the United States.

“When you pull out, you are pulling into traffic and possibly into pedestrians. Technological advances like rear side cameras and those sensors that make beeping noises when your vehicle gets too close to a person, another car or an object can help make backing out easier but the effect these devices have on preventing or reducing accidents is gradual.”

The information below from other sources which, based on my many decades of experience as a driver, supports the argument that it is safer and more prudent to park facing out than facing in:

• The Gleaner reported in June 2018 about a teacher whose car struck and killed a four-year-old student while reversing on the premises of the Anchovy Primary School.

• The United States’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that in 2015, there were 62,000 cases of property damage recorded from vehicles entering and leaving parking spaces. This excludes 6,000 people who were injured and 40 who were killed.

• Reversing into a parking spot using the vehicle’s side or wing mirrors. You cannot see your vehicle’s side panels when driving forward. On the other hand, you can use your side mirrors to measure the distance from adjacent cars even before entering the parking space.

• Driving into a parking spot might look a lot easier, but you will only be able to do so safely if there is ample space between the adjacent cars. Otherwise, you might end up hitting the other car’s bumper with your side panels.

• Entering a parking space in reverse requires a narrow margin as the rear wheels will be your pivot point. All you need to worry about is whether your front bumper will hit what is in front of it.

• Manoeuvring in reverse is difficult due to reduced visibility (and because we naturally drive forward). That is why backing into an empty spot is much safer as opposed to backing into what, essentially, is open traffic. Vehicles have many blind spots, due to narrow rear windows, and aren’t equipped with rear-cross traffic alert systems. You will need someone to assist you.

I invite persons with opposing views to share their thoughts.

Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and advice about the management of risks and insurance. For free information or counsel, write to: or

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