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Drivers should, ideally, stop – out of courtesy when you’re backing out of a parking spot. But don’t bank on it. (dnberty/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Drivers should, ideally, stop – out of courtesy when you’re backing out of a parking spot. But don’t bank on it. (dnberty/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Driving Concerns

Do I have right-of-way when backing out of a mall parking spot? Add to ...

When parked in a mall parking lot, I check carefully to see if a car is coming, then begin to back out slowly. I usually check again before completing the backup. Then, suddenly, a car is there that wasn’t before, zooming past my bumper. When I was taught to drive in the 1980s, you stopped when a car was partly backed out to let them finish. Have the rules changed? Does everyone assume I have a backup camera or beeper? I have the same problem with people walking behind my car when I have already started backing up. – Eleanor, Coquitlam, B.C.

In an ideal world, drivers would stop if they see you backing out of a parking space. But if you’re counting on them to stop, you may need a backup plan.

“Generally, the person backing up does not have a ‘right of way’ – they must ensure it is safe before they start,” Constable Melissa Wutke, spokesperson for RCMP Traffic Services, said in an e-mail. “There is no definition under the [Motor Vehicle Act of B.C.] that stipulates, ‘you must wait for a vehicle to completely back up from an area before passing.’”

Section 193 of the act says, “The driver of a vehicle must not cause the vehicle to move backward into an intersection or over a crosswalk, and must not in any event or at any place cause a vehicle to move backward unless the movement can be made in safety.” It’s a $109 fine, including fees, and two demerit points.

Even though the law doesn’t say drivers have to stop to wait when somebody’s backing up, it’s something people should do. Just don’t assume they will.

“Common sense would dictate that if you see a vehicle in your lane of travel, then you must wait for that vehicle to move before you continue in that lane,” Wutke said.

If somebody speeds past out of nowhere and hits you – they could be charged with driving without reasonable consideration. It’s a $198 fine and six demerit points.

“On a surface level, the person backing up has to show caution – but if somebody drives through at a ridiculous speed and they try to slip through the crack and not stop for you, they could be charged,” said RCMP Sergeant Lorne Lecker, with Deas Island Traffic Services. “That’s where witnesses and video are so crucial.”

Or, you could both be charged. Even without charges, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia has to determine who’s at fault.

“As a driver, your top priority is to avoid the collision in the first place than be cleared after an investigation,” Lecker said.

The laws vary by province. Ontario is the only province where the rules of the road don’t apply on private property that’s used by the public, like mall parking lots.

So, if you back up and hit someone in Ontario, you won’t be charged under the Highway Traffic Act – but you could be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada.

And, Ontario’s fault determination rules do apply in parking lots, said the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

“Based on the limited information provided, [the driver backing up] would be at fault,” said Pete Karageorgos, IBC’s director of consumer and industry relations.

The law aside, if you’re struggling with drivers and pedestrians who won’t stop, you may have things, er, backward, said Angelo DiCicco, GTA general manager with Young Drivers of Canada.

“It’s better to back into the stall in the first place so you’re not backing out into an uncontrolled environment when you leave,” DiCicco said. “Backing out is very dangerous – there are people going by, kids running out – and rearview cameras have severe limitations.”

And, if you’re backing out extra cautiously because you can’t see if somebody’s there, you may be annoying drivers who’ve been waiting for you.

“Now they’re pissed off and decide to go while you’re double– and triple-checking,” DiCicco said. “If you’re having issues backing up and people are honking at you – at some point, you have to think, ‘Maybe it’s me.’”

If you do decide to back into a stall, signal and then roll down the window to gesture to let other drivers know that you’re backing in – and that they can go around you.

“If they don’t get it, you put the vehicle in reverse,” DiCicco said. “You want to communicate with the vehicles around you that the space is yours and you want to back in.”

Still, if you do back out, drivers should, ideally, stop – out of courtesy.

“Treat the people they way you want to be treated,” DiCicco said. “If someone is on your intended path, you wait. It’s like McDonald’s – first come, first served.”

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