Choosing a Parking Space

Choosing the Best Parking Space: How to and Why Should You Even Care

Updated April 21, 2019

Choosing the right place to park is arguably just as important as mastering parking maneuvers. There is so much more to safe parking than selecting the first likely-looking spot that comes along!

The parking space you choose will depend heavily on your experience level as a driver. Very new learners would be foolish to opt for a tight parking spot when bigger spaces are available nearby. Whereas the size of the parking spot may have little relevance for more experienced drivers, who are more concerned with location or the security of their vehicle.

Convenience, parking restrictions, space, safety and security are all issues you must consider when finding an appropriate place to park. We discuss each of these factors below.

Parking restrictions

Whether or not any parking restrictions apply to your prospective parking spot should be the first thing you consider. Parking is illegal in some areas to maximize public safety and convenience. Either way, parking in a restricted area will probably land you a parking ticket.

Parking regulations vary a little state-by-state, so you must check your state’s own driver's manual for local information. In general, parking is not permitted on or near intersections, on sidewalks or crosswalks, near to fire hydrants or anywhere that would block emergency service vehicles. Many no parking zones are marked with a “NO PARKING” sign, which may have arrows indicating in which area relative to the sign you cannot park. You will also encounter restricted areas where the curb is painted yellow or red.

How close to the entrance?

We are all keen to score a parking space as close as possible to the entrance of the building we are visiting. Though, is it really worth saving yourself a short walk? Parking in a high vehicle and pedestrian traffic area close to a building’s entrance puts your car more at risk of being scratched or damaged.

Parking close to a shopping cart return area might seem like a smart idea but we guarantee you it is not. Careless shoppers often roll their carts in the general direction of the cart return, without stopping to see if it ends up in the right place. Cars parked directly beside the cart return area are bound to get bumped by shopping carts at least a couple of times a day. Protect your paintwork by parking at a safe distance and walking your cart back to the return zone.

How large is the spot?

Choosing a spacious parking spot will be a primary concern for newer drivers who are still finding their feet with parking maneuvers. Parking will be easier when you have gained some experience, but this does not mean you can squeeze your vehicle into a ridiculously tight space and get away with it. Even if you are skilled enough to maneuver your car into a cramped space between two vehicles without incident, there is no guarantee it will be safe there while you go about your business. The drivers of the vehicles parked to either side of your car may not take due care when opening their doors or driving out of their spaces.

As a novice driver, your top priority should be choosing a spacious parking spot away from hazards and obstructions. As you get accustomed to the size of your vehicle and the way it handles, you can start choosing parking spaces with a little more attention to the convenience of the location.

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Exiting the Vehicle
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Leaving the Vehicle

Every driver must ensure their vehicle is safely parked and shut down before leaving it. It is all too easy to neglect proper protocol at the end of a journey. Leaving your vehicle requires just as much thought and attention as the pre-drive checklist you worked through before commencing your trip.

Sharing the Road with Other Road Users
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Sharing the Road

You will share the road with many different types of road user – we are not just talking about other motorists. Vehicles and pedestrians are the two primary categories of road user which make up the Highway Transportation System (HTS). Bicycles, passenger cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, slow-moving vehicles and light rail vehicles are among the many types of vehicle included in the HTS.

Road Rules for Pedestrians
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Pedestrian Traffic Rules

You must learn how to protect yourself from harm while walking on or near public roadways. Having the right-of-way at marked and unmarked pedestrian crossings does not mean you are safe. Irresponsible and distracted drivers may not always yield to pedestrians when they should. As a pedestrian, if you are involved in a collision with a car, right-of-way laws will not protect you from death or injury.

Review
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Parking

When learning to drive, you must learn how to angle park, perpendicular park and parallel park. The latter of these three techniques – along with parking on a hill – is almost guaranteed to come up during your practical driving exam. Attempting to park becomes dangerous if you fail to think ahead or allow yourself to get stressed-out by other drivers.

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Parking Restrictions

Parking is illegal or restricted in many areas. Unfortunately, you cannot always rely on colored curb markings or a “NO PARKING” sign being present in places where parking is prohibited. As a driver, it is your responsibility to learn about parking rules, restrictions and prohibitions and abide by this information at all times.

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Angle Parking

Angled parking spaces are designed to make parking easy. This maneuver is far less challenging than parallel parking or perpendicular parking but will still take a little practice to get right. Angled parking spaces are painted with the same dimensions pretty much across the whole of America: once you’ve mastered angle parking, you should be able to repeat the maneuver with ease anywhere.

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Perpendicular Parking

Also known as 90-degree parking, perpendicular parking uses spaces that are arranged at a 90-degree angle in relation to the parking lot lanes. Drivers may enter a perpendicular parking space head-on or in reverse – there is a great deal of debate among highway and traffic safety experts as to which method is better. As reversing is always more challenging, you should begin by mastering the head-on perpendicular parking method and progress to backing-up later.

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Parallel Parking

There is no denying that parallel parking is harder than both angle parking and perpendicular parking, though like all things, it can be mastered with practice. ALWAYS practice parallel parking in an empty parking lot before attempting it on the road between real vehicles.

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Parking on Hills

New drivers must learn how to park on a hill safely. Parking on a hill is more dangerous than parking on a flat surface, as you will need to contend with gravity and secure your vehicle in such a way that it does not roll. You will be legally responsible if your car causes damage to another person’s property or injures somebody, if you have not properly secured it.