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. I hate backing out because of limited visibility, so I try to pull through when possible, even if I have to walk three times as far. I often will back into a spot, though I like to do it in an edge row, so nobody is behind me. Besides the visibility thing, a big part is that when i am ready to leave, I want to leave, and pulling out is the easiest. And, as you say, if there is an emergency

    1. Funny, I just read the article you posted and the “when I’m ready to leave, I want to leave” is pretty much delayed gratification – I put up with a little misery when I park so that it is easier later. So I agree with at least that part of the article – backing in is delayed gratification. I also notice that if there is a separate entrance and exit to a store, people park closer to the entrance, which is stupid since you typically leave the store with more stuff and so being closer to the exit makes more sense. I see this all of the time at places like Home Depot and Loews, where people often have a lot of stuff to put in their car. Don’t people think ahead?

      1. Thanks for checking that out! It adds new light to the conversation doesn’t it? I found it very interesting, as well. It reminds me of the saying in Jamaica (translated to literal English), “If you want good, your nose has to run”. Translated into something sensible: to earn good things, you must suffer a little.

        I generally park wherever is most convenient and wherever I feel safest. For a long time, I always parked at the back because I didn’t want to bump anyone’s car by accident. I never have, but first time for everything! That was with my dad’s enormous sedan though. My little Seth can fit just about anywhere so I’m a lot more confident about whipping him into spaces with other cars around.

  2. I tend to pull in front-first, but I think it’s just cause I find it easier to back out when leaving the space as opposed to backing-in between 2 other cars haha I also have a bigger car now….so I haven’t actually tried backing in with the Forester yet 🤷🏻‍♀️

  3. I attempt to pull through facing forward so that I don’t need to back up when leaving. I read somewhere this is a fuel savings and I’m all about saving a bit on ozone. I also don’t have a backup camera and am very cautious if I must back up in a parking lot, especially if there may be small children around.

  4. Mostly, I drive in forward. Part of the reason for that is that in this town most of the parking both on the street and in lots is diagonal which makes backing in very awkward. In large lots, such as at the grocery store, I’m usually able to park where there is no car in the facing spot and I can go out forward as well.

      1. It’s a tourist town. Main Street needs all the parking spaces it can get, and it is wide enough for the diagonal parking on both sides and a row in the middle. The diagonal is easier to back out of than perpendicular (better view behind).

      2. I think I’ve seen that once in Georgia, but I don’t remember where. I think it was in Augusta.

  5. I drive in, especially at the supermarket. I drive an SUV, and it’s almost impossible to lift the tailgate to load groceries if I back in. Plus, my car does have a back-up camera. However, I always back into my own garage. Go figure.

    1. That makes perfect sense. If I’m getting groceries, I drive in as well. Everyone I know who backs in, will drive in if they know they need the trunk space. If I’m only getting a few items though and I can toss them on the back seat, then I may just back in.

  6. Preferably, depending on the situation and what store I’m at – it also depends on space and/or how far down I’ll have to park. I like driving in, I do back-in sometimes and as you stated above, I think it’s easier especially for seeing in front of you. I thought the poll was interesting….

    1. The times when you back in, what changes that you decide to do it differently?

      And thank you! The discussion that followed the poll was very interesting. People from all over the world participated.

      1. There’s only one word for that Sis and it’s “Laziness” no doubt. But I got it from behind last year when I drove into a parking space. So now, I do try to back in as you stated to be more aware of what’s in front of me – but I don’t always get that. All over the world huh, wow – that’s cool!

      2. Oh wow, I’m sorry to hear about the accident. Did they hit you while you were backing out?

      3. Yes Girl!, the only thing I heard was this crunching sound like a can getting smashed and it was my car!! She was backing out at the same time as I was and I didn’t see her, she said she didn’t see me, soooo…you know how that goes. Thankfully, neither one of us got a ticket but the claim on your insurance policy…smh…

      4. I am doing my best to have a claim-free year, because my premium is already through the roof as a new driver!

      5. And yes, it’s Twitter so it spread. I tagged a few of my European friends and they spread it like wildfire, as did the Jamaicans and Americans. People just kept retweeting and commenting. It reached as far as the Netherlands. It kept me busy for about 3 days! 😅

  7. I can just barely barely parallel park so I try to find spots I can drive into… backing into a spot is not an option for me as I am horrible at that too. Now if I can find a spot at any shopping area where I pull in but it looks like I backed in it’s gold! Amazing I passed my drivers test all those years ago on the first try, eh? LOL Signed – a bi-racial American

    1. Really? Why are you uncomfortable with reversing after all this time? I don’t mind it at all. My parents used to laugh at me because for a long time I could back into a parking spot, but couldn’t drive into one without messing up 😂😂😂

      1. Hahahaha, well practice makes perfect! In the meantime, I would say keep working with what feels safest to you. Not most convenient, but safest.

  8. i agree with you for the reasons to back in but also the one reason you gave, visibility, makes backing in rather tricky at times. also, there are places, for whatever reason(s) post signs saying no backing in.
    i feel most dont back in for the fact it takes more time and some degree of ability and thus they just are too lazy. lol
    good post

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      I find visibility is better for backing in than backing out. I have a smaller car in the south where everyone loves big trucks and SUVs, so I often have zero visibility when backing out beyond what’s directly behind me at this second. People in Atlanta also don’t seem to look where they’re going when in the parking lot. They are VERY trusting of drivers. They just expect us to see them. Good luck with that when there’s an F150 to my left and a Dodge Caravan to my right. 😂

      There are counties and parking lots that forbid you from backing into parking spaces. I haven’t found any, so far.

      The American Auto Association does say it’s safer to back in though. Click on the tweet and scroll through the thread. I had posted an article referencing their saying that.

  9. I pull in to the space and pull forward if possible so that I am now facing out. Many parking lots have double spaces. I am extremely white with not a bit of African or Asian DNA according to Ancestry.

      1. So do my husband and daughter. Since I drive the equivalent of a tank with my minivan I figure the other car would suffer more.

      2. That’s a good point. I am most paranoid about backing over small children as they don’t pay attention, their parents don’t pay attention, and I can’t see then outside that back window. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll catch them in the side mirror but that’s about it

      3. Yeah…I knew it was an issue before I got it, but didn’t realise how bad. I’ve gotten used to it now, but terrible idea backing up a hill with it.

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