Problem and Solution: Parking Lot Accidents

PluribusOne™ helps individuals, companies and others to solve problems, capture opportunities, and develop strategies by using its proprietary Noetitek™ meta-tools. Although many of our most popular posts address enigmatic films, Renaissance artworks, and provocative books, other posts have confronted issues such as global flooding, economics, and other matters. 

A problem every driver is at risk of experiencing is: parking lot accidents. We have never had one, but we have witnessed many during nearly fifty years of driving. Insurance companies are well familiar because about 20% of all auto accidents occur in parking lots. They run the gamut from minor fender-benders and dented bumpers and doors to the deaths of small children, unwary adults, and handicapped (e.g., vision-impaired, hard-of-hearing, and crippled) persons. 

Typical problems unique to parking lot accidents are: 

  1. Non-municipal parking lots are on private property where traffic laws are generally unenforceable, and lot owners disavow responsibility.
  2. Parking lots are areas of intense activity with a mix of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and where everyone is more apt to be distracted. This is especially true on weekends, holidays, and days when weather is inclement.
  3. The absence, and impracticality, of elevated sidewalks and curbs.
  4. Difficulty of a third-party (such as insurance company or court) determining fault.
  5. Reluctance to keep collided vehicles in place for photographing.
  6. Increased likelihood and hazard of confronting road-rage up-close and personal.
  7. Police often refuse to respond (at all) to write on-scene reports or tickets, or document damages to vehicles firsthand.
  8. Mishandling (e.g., not reporting) the event can lead to criminal charges and claim-filing after-the-fact—and may even violate a state law requiring a report.
  9. Independent witnesses are often too-hurried or unconcerned to serve as witnesses unless there is a bleeding body on the ground.
  10. Insurance agents often discourage making a claim on your own insurance—any “collision” claim has consequences for driving record and rates—yet “minor” damages can cost thousands of dollars to repair (or commensurately devalue the car).
  11. The most frequently disputed accidents—minor or fatal—occur in parking lots. 

Some of those problems are well-known. Many of the variables are beyond control in terms of legislation, although awareness can reduce risks—you cannot control the behavior of others, but you can control your own. However, there is one huge factor that contributes to the risk of such accidents that we have not seen identified before: parking lot design. Parking lot design is controllable by governmental authority, or better: by architects, commercial developers, and lot owners taking the initiative. In most cases the design changes that we propose  can be done to existing lots and at low cost. 

First, the problem: Within the close confines of municipal as well as non-municipal lots, spaces are of uniform size and unrestricted while sizes/shapes and types of vehicles is a jumble. This jumble, especially on busy days and during inclement weather, impedes safe ingress and egress, presents dangers to pedestrians, and increases opportunities for body side damage (e.g., we have even seen truck-door damage to the roof of a low-slung sports car).

Our solution: create a matrix of specialized parking zones. This is similar to the solution already in place for handicapped parkers. Devote an area to motorcycles and bicycles. Define another for pickup trucks and vans. Have another for people who need extra room to move children from car seats to strollers. Dedicate a common area for loading large packages. And enact legislation for enforcement of these arrangements the same way that police presently enforce handicapped parking.

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3 Responses to “Problem and Solution: Parking Lot Accidents”

  1. Sandi Says:

    My girlfriend’s boyfriend was in the military and he does what he calls “combat parking,” which is backing his oversized truck into parking spaces so he can exit the space more quickly and, he claims, more safely. It makes no sense to me because you have to do some backing up either way and very few people park backwards. It’s embarrassing. Is my inclination to conform keeping me from a safer parking practice?

  2. PluribusOne™ Says:

    Backing into a space tends to disrupt and impede traffic flow. It creates a unique hazard to other drivers who suddenly find the vehicle in front of them backing up, and to pedestrians not expecting a driver to back into the space they’re stepping into. Some parking lots have wisely resorted to putting up signs stating this is prohibited, that vehicles “must park facing forward.”

    The practice of backing into spaces can also lead to actual combat because the 99% of drivers not expecting a vehicle to back into a space often drive forward into the space that the combat parker intends to occupy. They exit their vehicle to hear Mr. Combat Parker shouting from his window that his targeted space has been stolen. Welcome to “dodge city” parking.

    People who drive through one space so they can face out of the space across from them create a similar hazard because their action is also unexpected. (Trying too hard to avoid a problem often creates exactly that problem.) Some parking lots use a low barrier to separate the lanes of parked cars to prevent drive-through. Otherwise, some drivers will even make their own exit lanes by using a series of empty spaces.

    Just as there are handicapped parking areas near entrances to shopping centers, supermarkets, office buildings, schools, and recreational facilities, there need to be separate areas for pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs on the far edges of those lots. Visibility-impairing vehicles present dangers to pedestrians and ordinary cars that can be easily, inexpensively, and greatly minimized.

    The design of most large parking lots is as poor as a house with a bathroom that opens into a kitchen or living room, or a town that allows mobile homes and repair shops to be located next to mansions. Legislation is always required—zoning laws, building codes, etc. There is no “common sense.” Call or write your congressional representative (forget emailing) and tell them you advocate redesigning parking lots.

  3. PeaceTrainer Says:

    An Associated Press article yesterday reported on a parking lot accident in Titusville, Florida where a small boy was killed when an SUV backed over him, crushing his chest. Some people blame the child’s mother. Some people blame the driver. This accident might not have happened if the SUV had not been permitted to park so close to the recreational area that the child came out of. Blaming is a poor substitute for prevention.

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