Perpendicular parking is the most common method of parking your vehicle. Commonly seen in malls, gas stations, fast-food chains, and open parking lots, it’s when the vehicle is parked perpendicularly (or in 90-degree angle) from the wall or the curb, thus, the name.
The debate as to which is the better way to park perpendicularly is out there. It's like the tissue issue: should you pull up or pull down? Some say it’s easier to just drive into a parking spot rather than entering in reverse, while others say it’s otherwise.
Unless there is a sign that says “Please park facing the wall,” you have the liberty to choose how you park perpendicularly. This is different from parallel parking, mind you, wherein it’s necessary to park in reverse.
The issue whether to park in reverse or not can be trivial for some, but the data from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says otherwise. A total of 62,000 property damages were recorded in 2015 — all from vehicles entering and leaving a parking space. This doesn’t include the 6,000 people who were injured and 40 who were unfortunately killed.
Now with these numbers, safety in parking lots isn’t something to be taken lightly. But, which is really safer: parking in reverse or pulling into a spot?
This author has pretty much encountered perpendicular parking every single day since he learned how to drive more than a decade ago. With that, allow us to share our thoughts about this “basic” parking maneuver.
It’s easier to measure your distance from adjacent cars when backing up.
Backing into a parking spot is easy thanks to your car’s side mirrors. You can’t really see your vehicle’s side panels when driving forward, as opposed to when backing, where you can use your side mirrors to measure the distance from adjacent cars even before entering the parking space.
In addition, some modern cars are equipped with rear-view cameras and sensors, which makes reverse parking a whole lot easier.
You will need less space to maneuver in when backing up into a spot.
Driving into a spot might look a lot easier, but you will only be able to do so if you have a good distance between the adjacent cars and the road. Else, you might end up hitting the other car’s bumper with your side panels.
On the other hand, 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’s in front of it or not.
Backing into an empty spot is SAFER than backing into open traffic.
Granted, maneuvering in reverse is difficult due to reduced visibility (and because we naturally drive forward). That’s why, backing into an empty spot is much safer, as opposed to backing into what essentially is open traffic.
Now, in the latter situation, if your car has considerable blind spots due to narrow rear windows, and isn’t equipped with rear-cross traffic alert system, you will need someone to assist you. Otherwise, it’s risky for your car, other cars, and road users like pedestrians, cyclists, stray pets, etc.
Parking needs concentration. Remove distractions.
While this author is convinced that backing into a parking space is much safer than pulling in, no amount of technique and high-tech features can save your car if the driver is distracted while doing so. Whether perpendicular, parallel, or even diagonal parking, your concentration is needed to avoid mishaps and accidents.
Parking is still driving, so you’re just as liable in the parking lot as it is on the road. You don’t want to be part of the local crash statistics, do you?