Fact Sheet

Why back-in parking is safer

The vast majority of drivers pull into a space front-first — unaware that this standard approach might be putting them at risk

Drivers typically slide into a parking space front-first, then back out when it's time to leave. But Tom Vanderbilt at Slate says that reversing your car into your spot — a method some call "tactical parking" — is actually a much more efficient, safer approach. While "it takes a bit of time to reverse into your driveway or a parking spot," says Bryan Black at It's Tactical, "the benefits far outweigh the time it takes." Have you been parking wrong your entire life? A quick guide to the debate:

What's wrong with front-in parking?The logic is "breathtakingly clear and simple," says Vanderbilt. If you pull in front-first, you later back out into unknown traffic. "Your field of view is severely limited...and can cause you to [overlook] oncoming" cars, says Black. Plus, it's tough to back out quickly, a clear disadvantage in an "emergency situation." (Watch a short tutorial on "tactical parking")

Do statistics back this up?Sort of. Fourteen percent of car crashes occur in parking lots, according to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2001 and 2002. Many of these are "backover crashes," in which drivers hit another car while backing out of a parking space. Vanderbilt says that "the last crash I was involved with occurred when a driver backed his SUV from a parking space into my driver's side door," and "it's almost certain the crash would not have happened had the driver employed 'back-in, head out' parking."

So why doesn't everyone park this way? Mostly because people simply believe it's more difficult than the traditional way of parking. For those who were originally taught back-in parking, it's second nature. For the rest of us, "it seems odd," says Vanderbilt. One website devoted to the technique has even termed it "Fancy Parking," saying it's "a way of saying to the world, 'I'm not going to rush into things, I'm going to plan sensibly.'"

Sources: Slate, It's Tactical, Fancy Parking

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