Do You Back Into Parking Spaces—Or Do You Drive In?

On August 22nd, I became the proud owner of a little Hyundai Accent I named Seth. Since then, Seth and I have been braving America’s 7th most dangerous city for driving ie Atlanta. As a new driver, I’m only just beginning to learn my habits on the road—and in parking spaces.

One of these habits I’ve noticed is that I back into parking spaces a good 80 to 90 percent of the time. Actually, I do this 100 percent of the time at home and at work. The only exceptions are at the gym or the store, where I either drive over two spaces, so I can still face outward, or I suck it up and park facing inwards to save time or leave trunk space.

There are a number of reasons I back into parking spaces. The first is that Seth has a small and high back window which limits rear visibility, with no backup camera to compensate for it.

The second is that great visibility or no, I hate backing into oncoming traffic, even in a parking lot. You never know for sure if pedestrians and drivers are paying attention and I don’t plan to learn the hard way.

Finally, my male friends in Jamaica always told me that you should back into parking spaces, in case of an emergency that requires a speedy getaway, like an attempted assault or a mass shooting.

Now that I’m beginning to note this habit of mine, I also notice most people in America park facing inwards ie they drive forward into the parking space. Not only does this seem less safe to me, but it also seems less proactive.

With that in mind, I’ve now begun to wonder about the underlying reasons behind why a person parks the way they do. What role does culture play, since most of my Jamaican friends—male and female—back in? What role does gender play, since my male friends seem more comfortable reversing in than my female friends?

What role does race play, since my Black friends are more likely to reverse in than my White and Asian friends? What role does personality play, since my more forward-thinking friends prefer to park knowing they can leave quickly by driving out, if need be?

Or is this all coincidental?

I’ve been thinking of conducting a little study to find out. As a former sociology student, it would be going back to my academic roots in more ways than one. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s curious about the personal and demographic differences that may or may not influence how a person parks their car, and why. Are you?

Here are the results of a poll I ran on Twitter; it received 283 votes and dozens of comments. My Facebook friends also had plenty to say…but unfortunately, I can’t include those. Also, since most of my Facebook friends are Jamaican, that sample is biased. It is, however, why I know that most of my Jamaican friends back in, regardless of gender or sex.

PS:—This is the only study I have seen referenced on this, so far: Interesting Research: The Way You Park Your Car Says Something About Your Economic Outcome

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64 thoughts on “Do You Back Into Parking Spaces—Or Do You Drive In?

  1. Last week I intentionally backed into a parking lot again, after years of not doing that. I have no clear reason for it, I reckon I find it easier to drive in head first.
    As for driving out in reverse: I am neurotic when it comes to driving. If I am not 100% sure the road is clear, I hit the brakes.

    1. It’s hard to ever know when the road is 100% clear. That’s why I back in. That parking space is always 100% clear. Any accidents would be as a result of my own negligence, whereas when I back out, I’m often forced to trust the common sense of other people who are probably on their phones and not paying attention, haha.

  2. Although I was taught to drive into [parking lot] spaces, I prefer to back into parking spaces about 90% of the time, for the same reasons you mentioned; I prefer to see ahead when it is time to leave. People – including small children – are walking around, people are driving around at different speeds, etc. Decades of driving experience makes this my preference. I am a Black American woman. 😊

    1. The children make me the most paranoid, I think. That more than anything else will keep me backing in for decades, like you!

  3. I definitely prefer to back in but I don’t most times because, depending on where I’m at, somebody will pull in just when I’m about to back in and then it becomes a shouting match inside Walmart and I look like the bad guy because you’re not supposed to cuss out the old man wearing the priest collar even though he flipped you off just moments before in the parking lot! It’s a true story that never happened.

    1. Buahahahahaha! Atlanta is busy, yes, but the parking lots are huge! Also, my natural routine puts me on the road when everyone else is heading home and vice versa. So, I think I get lucky in my pick of parking spaces outside of downtown. At work, I have more than my fair share to pick from. We have a parking deck and I only go in on the weekends or late night.

  4. I used to pull into parking, but when I started driving pickup trucks with extended cabs I found it easier to back in. I can center a vehicle in a parking space (without trying) if I back in; however, let me pull in and half the car will be in the traffic lane or the adjacent parking space (or both)

    1. LMAO! Same! For a long time, my family made fun of me because I could back in straight but could never park straight from driving in. 😂 My Dad was like, “What is wrong with you????”

      1. Well, for me, it’s not just parking. Being an audio stagehand & sometimes monitor engineer, I learned to think backwards. If I had to set up 5 microphones for singers, I had to start at my left with #5, and #1 would be on the right (which put them in normal order like reading a book to the guy at front of house). I now load my fridge all weird, with the coldest bottles of my drinks at the bottom right of the fridge

      2. LoL! I had no idea that could happen from that line of work. The one stagehand I knew was left-handed so I think he was already used to doing things backwards in a way, or at the very least, starting from the other end. 🤔

  5. I’ve always found it bizarre that people reverse into a small, confined space when visibility is far worse than if you were going in forwards. It’s far, far easier to reverse out of the space into an area where you’re not likely to hit anything. The other reason I park forwards is that if I’m at a supermarket I can’t get the bags in the back if it’s against another car or a wall. I’m perfectly happy to reverse into spaces where the benefits are clear (e.g. driveway on a busy main road or loading my car with luggage etc. from the house because then the rear of the car is closer) but generally I don’t get the big reversey trend – it seems a weird choice.

    1. I disagree with you on that 100%. Here is a perfect example of why.

      The first day I got my car, I did what most new drivers would do, I drove into my driveway and parked the car. A few hours later, my parents asked me to accompany them to the gym. I decided to drive so I could get the practice.

      My parents were waiting about 10 feet from the end of my driveway (I live in a big cul-de-sac) and my driveway is sloped downwards towards the garage doors. When I started to back out, I realised I couldn’t see anything but roof tops, trees, and the big blue sky. I could, however, hear the neighbour’s kids playing in the cul-de-sac and I knew my parents were waiting closeby. I very slowly started to back out and then when I got to the end of my driveway, I angled the car so I was parked parrallel to it.

      Not only did I realise then that the kids were playing close to where I would have backed out, but had I backed straight out of the garage like one would do with all the cul-de-sac space in the suburbs, I would have backed right into my parents’ car. I have never driven into my driveway since. I can always see the garage door on my way down, and I park a good 10 feet away, leaving me plenty of space to access the trunk if I need to. I can’t say the same for backing out.

      Since I have a smaller car, my visibility for backing out of spaces is also often blocked by larger cars. I just have to take a chance and start backing out slowly and hope they see me. And I don’t know about people where you live, but Atlanta folks do not pay attention in the parking lot. People don’t look for reverse lights, and don’t look before crossing the street. They have the right of way and they use it. So it’s either you see them or hit them. 😂

      1. Ah, now a driveway that dips down to the garage is a good example of where I WOULD reverse park, because as you say, the visibility is pretty poor trying to come out again. And I ALWAYS reverse park into the space at work because it’s easier than forward parking (not enough room to swing it around). But other than that, it’s forwards almost all the time. I guess Brits are just a bit more careful about driving in car parks! 🙂

      2. Haha, maybe they are. Americans are forever distracted, but I meant to say that the pedestrians themselves don’t pay attention either. Most times driving through parking lots, I see people just step out into the road without looking, faces buried in their phones. I mean even older folks! So when I see them I stop even before they start crossing. I won’t have an imbecile make me lose my license when I could have just been the bigger person and wait an extra 10 seconds for them to cross safely 😂

  6. I tend to drive forward, and into the next space, if it is open. I live in a small city, so backing up is not as problematic as in Atlanta, or Phoenix. In larger cities, I am given to using garages, so pulling forward is not such a great deal.

    1. I’m not sure if by backing up not being problematic, you mean backing into the space or out of it.

      Thanks for reading and joining the convo!

      1. Yeah, I’m not a fan of that at all. It requires too much trust to be placed in idiots. 😂

  7. I prefer to back in and it’s for all the reasons mentioned in this blog. I’ve also encouraged others to do the same. My best friend who is Haitian has finally joined in on the fun. I’m always open to teaching and encouraging those who are fearful of backing in until they become good and cozy with it. I absolutely dislike when I go somewhere and am required to park my car nose in!

    1. My dad is Haitian-American and would not back in even if his life depended on it. He says it’s stupid lol. I think that’s the American in him. He was born and raised in Florida to Haitian parents.

      In contrast, the Haitian-American at work, also born and raised in America to Haitian parents, always parks facing outwards. I know this because we park right next to each other almost every shift. 😂 Everyone else is parked facing in; we’re the rebels.

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