I had a bit of a scare the other day when I tried to back out of a space in a busy parking lot. There was a large van beside me blocking my view so I scanned as completely as I could and began to let up on the clutch. No sooner had I started to roll than a woman paying more attention to her smart phone than where she was walking appeared from behind the van. We both slammed on the brakes and after looking at each other for a moment, she continued on her way.
I wondered just how dangerous parking lots were, so I asked about it and ICBC provided me with data for the five year period from 2011 to 2015. During that time there was an average of 2 deaths, 5,900 injuries and 120,000 property damage incidents each year. Parking lots do appear to be hazardous places!
Returning to my near miss with the pedestrian it occurs to me that most parking lots are designed only with vehicles in mind. Even then, the object seems to be to get as many vehicles into the lot as possible, crowding them together. The lane between lines of vehicles seem to be narrower as well.
There are usually no safe places to exclude the path of pedestrians from the path of vehicles.
Would it not be better to have a sidewalk with a row of parking on either side of it? You could park and walk safely between the rows of vehicles to and from the businesses. Vehicles would be prevented from crossing the level sidewalk area by curbs and the curbs would have gaps in them to allow you to move the shopping cart to your vehicle’s side doors.
I imagine that the biggest drawback to this design would be the difficulty with snow removal.
For my part, there were at least two things that I could have done to make this safer for the pedestrians. Backing into the parking spot would have afforded a better view when I tried to leave it and a gentle tap or two on the horn just before I moved would likely have called attention to me too.
The woman should not have been intent on her phone while walking along the edge of the corridor between vehicles. She could instead have been watching for illuminated backup lights that would tell her she needed to make eye contact with the driver before she walked behind the vehicle displaying them.
What really scares me is the possibility that the pedestrian could be a child that was a bit ahead of their parent. Since I don’t have a backup camera, it’s possible that they would not be taller than the top of my tailgate and I could drive over them without knowing anything was wrong until I felt the bump. That’s far too late.
From now on, I’m taking my own advice. If I can’t pull through the spaces to be nose out, I will be backing into my parking spot. There is a much smaller chance of colliding with something backing in than there will be when backing out.
Constable Tim Schewe (Retired)
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