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Right of a Way at a Parking Lot (5 Rules to Follow in 2024)

When pulling out of a parking spot, the general rule is that you must yield to traffic already in the lanes. This means you should wait for a safe gap in traffic before pulling out. However, if there are no other vehicles in the immediate area, you can proceed with caution.
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Collen Clark Published by Collen Clark

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Determining Who Has the Right of Way

According to Joey Rosenberg from FTD, when you're a new driver, understanding the concept of "right of way" is crucial as you navigate the roads [1].

Many traffic laws only state that the right of way must be yielded, but provide few instructions beyond this. In the most general sense, right of way means who has the legal right to go first on the road. Joey Rosenberg Stated.

Here are some guidelines for determining right of way in common driving scenarios:

  • Controlled Intersections: At intersections with stop signs or traffic lights, follow the signals. If you and another vehicle reach a stop sign simultaneously, yield to the car on your right.
  • Uncontrolled Intersections: When there are no signs or lights, yield to vehicles already at the intersection. The first vehicle to arrive should proceed first, and when in doubt, yield to the vehicle on your right.
  • T Intersections: At a T intersection where a road ends, yield to traffic on the through street from both left and right directions.
  • Multiple Lane Intersections: In situations where a smaller road intersects with a larger road or highway, drivers on the smaller road should yield to vehicles on the larger road due to higher speed limits.
  • Highway On/Off Ramps: When entering or exiting a highway, drivers on the access ramp should yield to vehicles on the exit ramp. However, vehicles merging onto a highway must yield to all traffic already on the highway, including those in the merging lane.

Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way in a Parking Lot?

According to Smith Law, the most important rule is that pedestrians have the right of way in a parking lot [2]. The whole point of a parking lot is for drivers to park their vehicle and then walk into a store. The high foreseeability of dealing with pedestrians in a parking lot give them the right of way.

There are exceptions, though. If a young child runs into traffic in a parking lot and is struck by a vehicle, the driver may still be held responsible due to the child's age and inability to understand the dangers involved.

Parking Lot Etiquette: 5 Rules

According to the National Motorists Association publication from 2013, navigating parking lots requires more than just finding an empty spot; it requires following unwritten rules to ensure everyone's safety and convenience [3].

Here are some key guidelines for parking lot etiquette:

  1. Drive in the Right Direction: Pay attention to signs and markings indicating the correct driving direction. Follow the arrows and drive in the same direction they point.
  2. Use Turn Signals: Signal your intentions with your blinkers to inform other drivers and pedestrians of your next move.
  3. Don’t Wait: Avoid waiting for a parking spot to open up by finding another spot or parking farther away and walking.
  4. Park Courteously: Park within the lines, in the center of the space, and consider other drivers when positioning your vehicle.
  5. Obey Speed Limits: Maintain a safe speed, typically around 15 mph or slower, to prevent accidents and protect pedestrians.

Parking lots can be a driver’s worst nightmare, but they don’t have to end in so many accidents. If you learn and practice these five rules, you will probably be the most mannerly driver in the parking lot. Just think what it will be like when everyone follows them… Paradise.

Parking Lot Accident Statistics

According to CBS News, the National Safety Council reports that over 50,000 collisions occur annually in parking lots, accounting for 20% of all car accidents [4]. Additionally, these accidents result in the deaths of 500 or more individuals each year, with another 60,000 sustaining injuries.

Why Do So Many Accidents Occur in Parking Lots?

Numerous factors contribute to these accidents, with distraction being a primary cause. Many drivers fail to approach parking lots with the same level of attention and caution as public roads, highways, and interstates.

In a public opinion poll conducted by the NSC, drivers admitted to engaging in various activities while driving in parking lots, including:

  • Making telephone calls: 66% of adults, 60% of teens
  • Texting: 56%
  • Using social media: 52%
  • Using email: 50%
  • Watching videos or taking photographs: 49%
  • Engaging in personal grooming: 53% of adults, 59% of teens

Thus, it is not surprising that accidents are occurring. These accidents do not always involve two cars. Many accidents involve pedestrians. Older adults and children are particularly vulnerable to pedestrian accidents.

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