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?