Why you should combat park

If there’s one upside to the bizarre “new normal” and daily disruption brought about by the Covid-19 virus, it’s that average Americans have been deconstructing their daily habits. We find ourselves re-examining how and why we do what we do in response to the most talked about Chinese export since Jet Li. From counting squares of bum fodder to bossing up your personal bubble to 72” of “social” distance, the risk factor of our choices is at the forefront more so than ever. At least they should be. Even when it comes to something as simple as how you park when you’re on a hand sanitizer run.

The consequences and/or benefits of simple choices are nothing new if you spent time collecting LES’s. There are some things that come as second nature to you that garner second or third glances from those that don’t know the difference between a FOB and a COP. You especially get these tilted head looks when “R” is your gear of choice parking your car.

Call it what you will- combat parking, “wrong way” parking, or nose out- it’s probably one of, if not THE most controversial move to make in a parking lot (short of parking a Tundra in the Hybrid slot). The fact is, there’s nothing controversial about it, it’s the RIGHT way to park! In a lot of countries it’s considered selfish and rude NOT to back into a parking spot. It’s so right that the great State of Hawaii says,

“Avoid backing into traffic. Try to park the vehicle so that you will enter traffic in a forward direction. Always back into the lane nearest the edge of the road-way when traffic is clear.” (p64 , Official Hawaii Driver’s Manual)

When you are exiting a parking spot and entering the flow of traffic, you are most vulnerable. It’s counterintuitive to move from a safe space into a risky situation backwards. (You wouldn’t kick-in a door only to enter the room butt first looking over your shoulder, so why would it make any sense to blindly back into a situation where you risk impact from a multi-ton missile controlled by a teen more interested in a Tik Tok post than the wheel?) The National Highway Safety Administration estimates “267 people are killed and 15,000 injured each year by drivers not parking forward first, usually in driveways or parking lots.”

You might be thinking, “But it’s annoying waiting while someone takes all that time to back in!!” I see the eyes rolling when those white lights come on as I start my parking protocol. Parking lots are full of people whose entire focus is on immediate gratification and doing things quickly only to end up taking more time later. Backing into a spot actually saves time when you can seamlessly exit into traffic. It take a lot more time to tentatively back out of a spot, especially when your line of sight is blocked by the cars on either side of you and your own car behind you.

As if the risk you’re assuming when pulling head first into a tight spot is not enough, it’s more difficult to align yourself as your non-steering rear wheels do not follow the same path as the front wheels when they trail in to the spot as you nose into a spot. How many times have you seen someone rush into a parking spot only to leave the car less than parallel to the lines. Conversely, backing into a spot the trailing wheels steer and push, allowing you to align yourself easily and move around more quickly. This is why it’s so much easier to back in to a parallel parking spot than to go in nose first.

Combat parking is a must in situations where immediate egress is essential. At the range, it’s standard for us to “face out” park. If there’s a medical emergency, any one of the cars in the lot is ready to go, meet first responders at the range gate or if the situation warrants, transport a wounded brother to get medical attention.

There are some situations, however, where nose out parking isn’t the best option:
1. Diagonal Parking Spots
2. When you have to take large or numerous cargo items out of the back of your car or truck
3. When there is signage stating you cannot park nose out.

So the next time someone gives you the stink eye as you deftly back into your spot, you can smile back knowing that you’re parking the right way. Which direction is your preferred parking method?

Know what we're sayin fam?

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29 thoughts on “Why you should combat park”

  1. Avatar

    I drive hundreds of thousands of miles a year. While the proper safety attitude is not to back unless absolutely necessary to, I agree with this in personal vehicle situations asmost of us are creatures of habit and distraction. Most people are tuning a radio or making a call when they get moving. Nationally backing accidents are the most common but I would rather back over a curb than into a moving car.

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    I was not in the military, but have always preferred backing into a spot. May be from driving a 23’ long truck, it’s much easier to back into a “tight” spot than to back into a parking lot full of people not paying attention, or worse, little kids too short to be seen over the bed rails!

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      One part you forgot is to make sure your drive wheels are on solid ground that will give good traction.

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    Yep, I get some looks and honks when I back into a spot. I try to pull through where the spots are back to back. If those impatient honkers only knew I was making their environment safer:)

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  4. Avatar
    Paco CW3 USA (Ret)

    BLUF: Back in and let others wait till you are grounded.

    Yes, sometimes you gotta goose it, don’t Lolly gaggle. Backin and shut down. Ditto with driveways.In every state of the Union, if you are backing out and hit (or get hit) it is the “backers” fault.

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    Michael Panlilio

    Great information for civilians. Always be prepared and be in position for a hasty exit is necessary.

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    This is actually a company police where I work back in parking only. It’s funny since my wife & I have been together now she back in parks more times than not.

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    I drive a Ford F-250 Superduty diesel 4door crewcab with a 8’ bed all sitting up on 38’s. I try to find a pull through when ever possible, but backing in is the second choice made easier with the backup monitor built into the rear view mirror!! Once I’m parked I always hit the switch to fold in the mirrors.
    Always need to pull straight out as far as possible then grab the steering knob and crank the wheel as fast and far as possible so I don’t crush the cars on either side of me!!

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  8. Avatar

    A great idea doomed to failure. I see people every day who can’t pull FORWARD into a parking space and you want them to back in ? Not happening !

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    Even when I have to nose in, loading or unloading the vehicle, etc…I feel weird. Backing into a spot is second nature!

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  10. Avatar

    Hello and HAPPY FFFRRRIIIDDDAAAYYYEEE…
    Zombie apocalypse, COVID-19 response, EMS parking, tactical parking, pull-thru-nose-out-vehicle/trailer parking, easier-to-guage, foot/vehicle-traffic exit parking… Call it what you will…
    It WORKS…
    It’s like showing up at a restaurant, bar, etc. and sitting w/ your back facing the inside area of the rest of that establishment.
    HUA!

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    43 yrs on the road and have always backed in my parking spot. I’ve seen too many people spend too much time trying to exit their spot and narrowly missing other people or worse yet small kids who get away from their parents.Always back in and drive out. Until this article never gave it much thought, if only people outside of this site could get the message. Let’s pass it around.

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    Candace Jackson

    You wouldn’t want me to back into a parking space with your car on either side of the spot I would be attempting and attempting being the key word here…I have never received any praise for my backing abilities and don’t deserve any..need I say more..

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    Always back in or pull through (1st choice) unless I have to load something, like groceries.

    You’re spot on and looks like you has fun writing this! I enjoyed the read!

    Thanks!

    Chip

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  14. Avatar

    I grandpa park, I drive through the empty spot to a spot where I’m nose out, so neither backing in, nor out. I’m also willing to walk farther so that’s never an issue. However, I do agree that “combat park” sounds better.

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    Back that thing up. So many reasons its safer. More people back over kids in their own drive ways even with back up cameras, than the opposite. Old fashioned eye sight gives you the best situational awareness, where as backing up requires turning to look over both shoulders back and forth in rotation and when looking over the right, the left is blind and vice versa. Back up cameras even panoramically have limited picture window and looking at that screen means the kid on a bike not in it, will be.

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    Robert Kephart

    First move forward is how I have been trained and how I have trained my children when learning to drive. Glad to see it is used more than just in the corporate world to avoid a responsible vehicle accident.

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    Most defensive driving technique oriented classes teach same/similar. Never backing a vehicle actually removes you from roughly half of all vehicle collision situations.
    Also…get a few extra steps into your damn day and a burn up a fat calorie parking in spaces a little more than 20 yards from the damn door. Space = Risk reduction. (Insert unicorn head exploding emoji here)

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    I love this! Gonna have the wife read this since she thinks it’s ridiculous I back into a spot. I always back into a spot. Something goes down I gotta be able to leave quick and see what’s in front.

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    Michael Darling

    I have been combat parking ever since Army MP School at Ft. Leonard Wood MO. driving MP Patrol Cars it only makes sense when you have to respond quickly. I have never stopped even after Retirement in 2008. I just Smile at the Assholes who crawl up my ass while I am lining up my ass end to the Parking Spot I am backing into. I have no problem squaring up my truck between the lines either, unlike the inconsiderate Delta Hotels who drive in at all jacked up angles and just leave it!

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  20. Avatar

    Yup.. good with this.. some companies (civ) also require to back into all spots whether it is at job sit or the company parking lot. I also back into my garage… It just becomes force of habit.

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