Exiting the Vehicle

Driving Safety Instructions: Shutting Down and Leaving Your Vehicle

Updated April 22, 2019

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. The car must be parked legally, secure from break-ins and stopped in a manner that does not endanger other people.

Choosing a parking space

You will be legally responsible if any person is injured, or property is damaged, because your car was parked incorrectly. Choose your parking space wisely and make sure the vehicle is completely within the parking bay lines, if any are present. Never park so closely to another vehicle that you are blocking it into a space.

Shutting down your car

Having positioned your car in a parking space, the first thing you should do is activate the parking brake to check that it works. Keep your foot pressed down on the brake pedal as you engage the parking brake. If the parking brake is doing its job properly, the car should not move as you ease your foot off the brake pedal. When you have confirmed that the parking brake is functioning, you may release it while pressing the brake pedal, to finish parking.

Follow these steps each time you park your car:

  1. 1

    Whenparking on a slope, turn your wheels toward or away from the curb as necessary.

  2. 2

    Activate the parking brake.

  3. 3

    In an automatic car, shift the transmission to “Park”. Drivers with manual transmission vehicles should leave the car in “Reverse” or first gear.

  4. 4

    Switch off your engine and turn the ignition to the start position.

  5. 5

    Remove your foot from the brake pedal.

  6. 6

    Switch off all lights and accessories which may drain the car’s battery if left active.

  7. 7

    Check that your windows are closed properly.

  8. 8

    Turn the ignition key to the “lock” position before removing it altogether.

  9. 9

    Make sure all doors are locked as you leave the car.

Exiting the car safely

Do not exit your vehicle hastily as it may not be safe. Check for traffic approaching from both directions when you have removed your seat belt, before opening the car door. Get into the habit of opening the door with your right hand, so you can check for traffic approaching from behind.

It is always safer to exit the vehicle from the passenger side rather than stepping out into a lane of traffic. If you cannot exit from the passenger side, make sure you collect all your belongings before leaving the car. Leaning back into the vehicle to pick something up can be dangerous.

When navigating around your car to reach the sidewalk, walk along the driver’s side toward the rear of the vehicle. This makes it easier to keep an eye on oncoming traffic.

Child safety for drivers

You are responsible for the safety of underage passengers while driving and parking. When transporting children:

  • Check that the child’s feet and hands are clear of the door before shutting it.
  • Ensure the child is secured in a way that meets legal safety requirements. Car seat and booster seat laws vary state by state; check your driving handbook for details.
  • Make sure the child safety locks on the rear doors are functional.
  • NEVER leave child unattended in a vehicle for any length of time, for any reason.

If you have children yourself, it is important that you never leave your car unlocked or leave the keys where they can be accessed. Children are frequently seriously injured or killed when playing in or around parked cars.

Would you pass a driving test today?

Find out with our free quiz!

TAKE A FREE TEST

Like the article? Give us 5 points!

Click a star to add your vote

5.0 out of 5 stars based on 1 votes.

Read next

Sharing the Road with Other Road Users
Vulnerable Road Users 1 of 7

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
Vulnerable Road Users 2 of 7

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.

Sharing the Road with Pedestrians
Vulnerable Road Users 3 of 7

Sharing the Road with Pedestrians

Keeping pedestrians safe is a shared responsibility. Drivers and pedestrians must all abide by certain rules to avoid pedestrian injury. As pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users, drivers will usually be held responsible when an auto-pedestrian accident occurs. Remember that in a car accident involving a pedestrian, the pedestrian always loses.

Review
Parking 2 of 8

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.

Parking 3 of 8

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.

Parking 4 of 8

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.

Parking 5 of 8

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.

Parking 6 of 8

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.

Parking 7 of 8

Choosing a Parking Space

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.