BY TIM SCHEWE

A number of readers have contacted me after I shared the story of a man walking behind me as I prepared to exit a parking lot. These readers have all advised me to back up in parking lots rather than enter them. The benefits of doing this outweigh the convenience of entering the stall nose first in all but one case.

I don’t care if I backtrack when I don’t have to, but if you sit down and think about the suggestion, it starts to make a lot of sense. When you back up in a parking lot, there is already no traffic. You just have to watch out for fixed objects behind and on either side. When backing up, you not only need to be careful of traffic coming from both sides behind you, but you also need to make sure that the front of your vehicle does not rub these stationary objects on either side. This divides your attention and is more likely to cause a problem.

Traffic lights ? In a parking lot? Defensive drivers signal, even when the law doesn’t require them to. Is there a better way to tell other drivers what you plan to do? The flashing traffic light will also attract the attention of pedestrians.

Yes, there will be inconsiderate drivers following you into the parking lot and not wanting to give you room to back up at whatever booth you choose. However, you are arrested and so are they. Politely wait with your signal on and hopefully they will understand it and get around you. Problem solved.

The only question I had was what should I do when I want to put things in the trunk of my car and there is not enough room between me and what I backed up on? It turns out it’s that easy to fix. Just step forward a few feet and voila, plenty of room to load a chest. If you are judicious, you will not be far enough out of the space to create difficulty for traffic that may pass in front of your vehicle.

If you can park up to the parking space on the other side of a double row, this is a good alternative to backing up a parking space. Beware of other drivers who might also enter your intended space on the other side.

ICBC’s Tuning Up for Drivers tool explains step by step how to back up in a parking lot on your right:

• Check the rearview mirror and turn on your right turn signal.

• Stop lightly after stalling. Make sure you are in a position where other vehicles cannot move behind you as you back into the stall. Before stopping you may want to tilt your car to the left.

• Perform a 360 degree check.

• Turn around and watch so you have a clear view of the area you are backing into.

• Start backing up slowly, keeping the wheels as straight as possible.

• When your vehicle’s rear bumper is aligned with the edge of the stall next to the one you want to back into, begin turning your wheels to the right as you back up toward your target stall.

• Continue to reverse, gradually straightening the wheels, until your vehicle is completely in the stall and out of traffic.

One final thought, and that is, backing up in a parking lot is a necessary skill for all drivers. New drivers will be tested there and experienced drivers will have to demonstrate proficiency if called in for reconsideration. It is practice makes perfect.

Tim Schewe is a retired police officer with two decades of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, visit http://drivesmartbc.ca.

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