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Rear-entry Parking Revisited

Thanks to the voluminous response from blog readers that I received in light of the earlier query on this blog, I’ve expanded the thoughts on rear-in parking into my latest Slate column, in case you haven’t seen it.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 10th, 2011 at 9:08 am and is filed under Etc., Parking. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “Rear-entry Parking Revisited”

  1. Alec Says:

    Tom,
    I just read the article on Slate, and really enjoyed it, thanks. I have worked in and around the valet / parking business for about 15 years now. There are some definite benefits to backing in that are mentioned, such as previewing the spot and how much room you have, and most notably the decreased danger of backing into another car when exiting the space (a time when your vision is most obscured by other vehicles). However, the number one reason virtually all valet companies and organizations that deal with parking matters on a daily basis (like UPS) require back-in parking is that it affords a much better angle of approach that reduces the likelihood of clipping either of the two cars on both sides. You know that feeling of unease, when pulling into a tight space without a wide area of approach that you may just be inches from hitting the side of another vehicle with your front end, or pulling the side of your own vehicle along the rear bumper of the other car? Back-in parking eliminates that completely. Because the largest part of the ‘swing’ (the turning wheels) follow rather than lead, you can effectively rotate out that end of the car without much movement on the leading end (the rear tires being backed in) and ‘swing out’ the wheels, allowing you to essentially back straight in. It is for this same reason that a good parallel parker can back into almost any spot, but its almost impossible to pull into a much larger curbside spot and get anywhere near the curb without a million tiny back and forth adjustments. In parking situations, backing in using this angle of approach advantage also allows you to park cars much closer to each other, something else that matters in places where a valet company may be able to park 50% more cars than guests would park on their own in the same space. Backing in requires a little time to get used to, and some people never get comfortable with it, because of all the looking over your shoulder, using mirrors to gauge distances, etc., but once you are comfortable with the basics, you’ll never pull front-first into a tight spot again.
    Next time you’re at a valet lot, look at the cars. They will all be backed in. While backing in makes them faster to retrieve as well (which matters if you’re a valet going to get a car for an impatient guest), the main reason is that it really does reduce the likelihood of an accident.

  2. Ken Young Says:

    I just read your Slate column and some of the comments regarding back in parking. In addition to safety concerns, I always do this in case I have to get my battery jumped off. Rather than try to get an open space beside my vehicle or in front of it to position a boosting vehicle, it can be pulled right in front for easy access. I tried to explain this to the kids when they were learning to drive and they thought it was silly. However, after the first time they got stuck because of a dead battery and being trapped in an inaccessible space for a period of time, they got the message.

  3. Aggie K Says:

    If I am meeting someone and get there before them, I routinely back into the spot. The main reason is that I’m facing out and see them arrive. If I’m in a parking lot and I can drive through to the next space, I always do. My husband seldom does, which I find puzzling. I have a lot of practice backing into a parking space. Whenever I’ve gone grocery shopping, I back into the garage for easier unloading (of the groceries) into the house.

  4. Bill T. Says:

    Regarding the sex differences when backing into a parking space: Did the studies adjust for drivers’ heights? My wife is much shorter than I and thus has a much harder time backing most cars (yay for the Prius!).

  5. Vin Says:

    You know, it’s funny. I’m entirely sympathetic to the logic of backing in, and feel as though I should do it. But I very, very rarely do it. I’m really just bad at perpendicular parking, generally. Not only do I pull in, but I pretty much always left-turn into spaces. I can’t right-turn into them without doing multiple maneuvers.

    I have a much easier time with angular parking, and even parallel parking, than with perpendicular parking. A large part of this is probably experience: I’ve always lived in a city, and I dislike parking lots, so I usually park on the street if it’s at all practical (and where I live it’s often the only way to go). But, while I, like most people, believe myself to be a good driver, I’ll readily admit that my perpendicular parking skill are lacking.

  6. john Robbins Says:

    some valid points…but I will point out that people that back in parking spots have a tendency to park at angles, park up against the side of the parking spots, and not pull in as far as they should (since they can’t see the dividing line). Although people cite the parking lot accident rate statistics as a reason, and some of the logic seems valid. But where are is the data showing it reduces accidents.

    To the lady that likes to drive forward out of parking spots….I don’t do it because of all the people I see zooming forward without looking for cars coming down the isles….sheez, being lazy (imo) is the reason people do it.

    Don’t be lazy…try turning your head and looking behind ya.

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