Drive Smart columnist Tim Schewe.

Drive Smart: Backing into parking stalls if possible is preferable

Backing into stalls is a necessary driving skill, says columnist


A number of readers contacted me after I told a story about a man walking behind me when I was preparing to back out of a parking stall. These readers all advised me that I should back into parking stalls rather than driving forward into them. The benefits of doing this outweigh the convenience of entering the stall nose first in all cases but one.

I don’t care for backing up when I don’t have to but if you sit and think about the suggestion, it starts to make a lot of sense. When you are backing into a parking stall there isn’t any traffic in it already. You only have to pay attention to stationary objects behind and on either side. When you are backing out, not only do you have to pay attention to traffic coming from both sides behind you, you have to make sure the front of your vehicle doesn’t rub those stationary objects on either side as well. This divides your attention and is more likely to result in a problem.

Signal lights? In a parking lot? Defensive drivers signal, even when the law does not require them to do it. Is there a better way to tell other drivers what you intend to do? The blinking signal light will also attract the attention of pedestrians.

Yes, there will be inconsiderate drivers who follow you into the parking lot and won’t want to give you the room to back into your chosen stall. However, you are stopped and so are they. Wait politely with your signal on and hopefully they will figure it out and go around you. Problem solved.

The only question I had was what do I do when I want to put items in the trunk of my car and there isn’t enough room between me and whatever I have backed up to? It turns out that this is simple to solve too. Simply drive forward a couple of feet and there you go, lots of room to load a trunk. If you are judicious, you will not be far enough out of the space to create difficulties for the traffic that may pass in front of your vehicle.

If you can pull through to the parking space on the other side of a double row this is a good alternative to backing in to a parking space. Beware of other drivers who might also be entering your intended space from the other side.

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

• Mirror check and turn on your right turn signal.

• Stop slightly past the stall. Make sure you’re in a position where other vehicles can’t move in behind you when you’re backing into the stall. Before stopping, you may want to angle your car to the left.

• Do a 360-degree check.

• Turn and look so that you get a clear view of the area you’re backing into.

• Begin to reverse slowly, keeping the wheels as straight as you can.

• When the rear bumper of your vehicle’s in line with the edge of the stall next to the one you would like to back into, begin turning your wheels to the right as you back toward your target stall.

• Continue backing up, gradually straightening the wheels, until your vehicle’s completely in the stall and out of traffic.

One last thought, and that is backing into a parking stall is a necessary skill for all drivers. New drivers will be tested on it and experienced drivers will have to demonstrate the skill if they are called in for a re-examination. Practice makes perfect.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with two decades of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, visit


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