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driving concerns

My boyfriend always backs into parking spaces and it drives me crazy. He says it's safer and quicker in the long run than backing out when he's leaving. I say it's unnecessary and it's rude to people who are waiting for you to park. It's better to just quickly pull in to a spot and back out when you're leaving, right? – Tyler, Toronto

Think it's backward to back into a parking stall? Reverse your opinion, experts say.

"If you pull into a space because you think it's easier, you're fooling yourself, you're lying or you're really dumb because at some point you'll have to back out of that space," says Angelo DiCicco, General Manager of Young Drivers of Canada (YDC). "Lazy people pull in and wait until later to do the work – and they're in a rush to get out and they'll hit a kid or another car."

Backing into a stall when you get there is safer than backing out when you leave, period, DiCicco says.

"When you back out into an uncontrolled environment, you're more at risk of hitting someone," DiCicco says. "There was a five-year-old boy just killed by a vehicle backing out. How many people do we have to run over before we understand that backing up is dangerous."

To reverse-park, first drive past the spot to make sure it's clear. Then you put on your four-way flashers and back in, DiCicco says.

"You put your hand out the window and wave to cars who are coming to tell them to go around you," he says. "When you're backing in, everyone will wait, other than the very rude or ignorant vultures."

When you're reverse-parking, drivers can see what you're doing – and you can see them. But when you're backing out of a spot, you're blind and you're counting on everybody else to see you – and to stop.

"What if they're texting their buddy or they're expecting you to know they're there because they have the right of way in their minds," DiCicco says.

So, if it's safer to reverse-park, why don't we all do it? Well, in some places, the majority of drivers reverse-park. There's a theory that postponing the hard work – backing out – until later reflects our society's need for instant gratification. One study showed that 88 per cent of cars were reverse-parked in China, compared to six per cent in the United States.

Or, it could be that a lot of us aren't comfortable doing it. You don't need to know how to reverse-park to get an Ontario driver's licence.

"Backing into a spot is a skill that takes practice," says Teresa Di Felice, director of driver training for CAA South Central Ontario.

Even if you normally reverse-park, there are times you might decide to not to – like if you want easy access to your trunk during a Costco run.

"Ultimately, the best way to park is based on driver comfort, where you're parking and the situation," Di Felice says. "There's not a hard and fast rule, but from a safety perspective it's probably easier if you're driving out of a spot."

Ideally, you want to park where you won't have to back up when you're coming or going, DiCicco says. That might mean parking in the barren outskirts of the parking lot, far from the entrance.

"If you can park anywhere you want, you would choose a space where you'd drive in and drive through to the second space to stop there," DiCicco says.

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