Last week I asked you for your unwritten rules of parking lot etiquette. As I wrote then, this request sprung from when I previously asked Lifehacker readers for their unbreakable rules of driving etiquette. From there, a sub-category of passionate please for common sense and human decency emerged. In addition to the rules of the road, the rules of the parking lot deserve their own space (pun intended).
Lifehacker readers delivered with over 100 responses, and I sincerely hope commenting was a cathartic experience. Whether you’re screaming alone in your car or typing furiously in a comments section, it feels good to vent about rules of driving “etiquette.” I place “etiquette” in quotation marks because these friendly reminders are often less about what is polite and more about what is codified law. And while we hope every driver understands and follows those written rules of the road, it’s clear that many of us could use a refresher.
Strap in and get ready for what Lifehacker readers shared as the top, unbreakable rules of parking lot etiquette.
First and foremost: Don’t park in a handicap spot
We’re starting off with one of those pieces of “etiquette” that is obviously a law: You cannot park in a handicap spot without a permit. Somehow, this is a law many drivers seem to overlook, and it was the most popular comment by a landslide. When it comes to taking up a spot reserved for people with disabilities, here’s what Lifehacker readers have to say:
“Not to ‘just run in’, not to drop off, not to pick up. Just don’t do it.” — planelover
Plus, a key reminder from someone who uses wheelchair: “Those hashed-out areas next to handicap spaces are not a clever life hack. Those are so I can get my wheelchair in and out of the car, and when you park your car there, you’re preventing me from using either of the adjacent spaces. You’re actually a bigger d*ck than if you’d just parked in the blue space illegally.” — Millennial Falcon
Another important caveat: “Just because someone’s disability isn’t obvious doesn’t mean they don’t have one, so save the side-eye dirty looks.” — planelover
When in doubt, remember what happened on Seinfeld.
Don’t block the flow of traffic
Parking lots can be a nightmare when everyone is looking for a spot. If you’re having a hellish time finding an open space, then so is everyone else. Commenter planelover writes, “if you’re parking in a busy parking lot, don’t be that jerk that has to block traffic by backing into the space.” We’ll elaborate more below, but the most decent thing to do is to take the first opening you see and pull right in.
Don’t go diagonal
It’s mind-boggling that this needs to be said, but some drivers seem to be oblivious to the purpose of the lines in a parking lot. If you’re cruising diagonally through the lot and then park however you so choose, you’re a jerk.
In addition to staying in the lines, some Lifehacker commenters advised against pulling through in a diagonal parking space. We’ll have more on the politics of puling through parking spaces on the following slides, so buckle up. For now, know that trying to glide through diagonal openings is both difficult and dangerous. Don’t do it.
If you mess up, try again
I get it. Especially with parallel parking, it feels like the world is watching you struggle. It’s better to take your time to park accurately and considerately, as opposed to throwing up your hands and accepting a shoddy, inconvenient parking job.
“If you get out of your car and see you’re parked over or too close to the line, too far in or too far out, hindering someone’s access to their car, or otherwise like an arsehole, get back in your car and fix it. I don’t care if you drive a pickup so big you need a ladder to get in it with tires so wide they have their own zip code. Park within the lines and leave other people space. If you can’t do that, park at the back of the lot where you won’t affect anyone. You chose to get the big arse thing you drive. You should be the one that suffers for it.” — Rick_S
Don’t be a lurker
I’ve vented about this before, which I’ll paste below to save myself the mental anguish of getting all worked up again:
“Have you ever been walking to your car in a parked lot, only to notice a Kia Sorento on your tail? Once you (hopefully) rule out kidnapping, it’s clear that the driver is not after you, but your parking spot. They lurk and linger, waiting for you to drive away so they can snag the opening. And while there’s nothing obviously illegal about tailing someone back to their parking spot, here’s the thing: I’m not crazy about the power dynamic between my oh-so fragile body and the 1,361 kg of steel waiting on me to clear up a space.”
In short, nobody likes a lurker.
“If you see someone climbing back into their car do not stop in the aisle, waiting for them to back out. The reality of modern life is that someone returning to their car will start the engine to get their A/C and radio running, then spend the next minute or more organising their phone — all before even starting to think about leaving. Unless you see backing lights, do not block the aisle waiting for them.” — MonkeyT
“Further, don’t block the car getting out of the spot. I’ve had a few people waiting for my spot in the exact location I needed to back into. Help me help you.” — Omega Unlimited
On the flip side, don’t be a dawdler
Nobody likes a lurker, but that doesn’t give you free rein to be a dawdler. Before you take your sweet time to chill in your parked car, try to gauge how packed the lot is at the moment. As long as you’re a little bit self-aware, the etiquette is pretty simple: “If you see someone waiting for your spot, don’t dawdle any more time than is reasonably necessary.” — I like Dunks coffee and I cannot lie
Not all Lifehacker commenters agreed, instead taking the stance that it is your obligation to your fellow drivers to free up your spot as soon as you can. Personally, I believe that we all are entitled to a little bit of time to linger after running errands. I might need to respond to some texts before I start driving again, or at the very least get my music situation set up.
A hack to avoid getting scratched…
Sometimes being courteous has perks. Here’s a tip to avoid getting your car scratched (besides, you know, not cheating on a vengeful partner):
“If you got a brand new car and you’re afraid of getting scratched or dinged by a door, don’t take up two spots close to the entrance of the building. Instead park as far away as you can (if you want to take two spots then, that’s fine) and walk.” — spaceman497
Likewise: “My car is 11 years old and I still park as far away as I can. The best part about this happens on crowded days when you walk out and someone starts following you hoping to snag a spot and you keep walking and walking and walking and they keep following and following and following…” — I like Dunks coffee and I cannot lie
Always return your trolley
This etiquette is for your fellow drivers as well as anyone working in the shops around the car park. Many readers commented how selfish they find it when someone leaves a cart blocking parking spaces, or worse, behind someone else’s car. Plus, shopping trolleys can roll and damage cars down the line. And no, propping the wheels up on a curb isn’t a valid alternative. If you’re physically able, return the trolley to its home.
Remember carparks have speed limits, too
An empty parking lot is a gift. If you have the opportunity to whip a perfect doughnut, I want to encourage you to do so. However, in terms of legality and safety, it’s important to remember that a seemingly vacant lot is not an excuse to turn into a speed racer.
“Don’t fly diagonally across the lot at 40 MPH (64.3738 km/h) even if the lot is empty. People might not be expecting you to burst into their lane out of nowhere. What does it save you, five seconds?” — I like Dunks coffee and I cannot lie
“Working at a grocery store for only about a year, this was the biggest source of parking lot accidents. Don’t cut across the parking spaces, people.” — OracleAnne
“It’s not a racetrack, you should be doing no more than 5-10 mph when driving around the lot.” — cycoivan
As always: Use your damn turn signal
So many drivers neglect the power of the turn signal. It’s a matter of safety and basic decency to signal your next move to fellow drivers. In fact, one reader, p_yanan, goes so far as suggesting that the turn signal “claims” a spot. Whether or not that holds up amongst cutthroat drivers vying for the same parking spot, it could help you avoid a collision while backing or pulling into an opening.
Follow the arrows
Yet again, the bar for “etiquette” is low. I’m sorry if the flow of traffic adds a few extra seconds to your commute. Please follow the direction of the big arrows painted on the ground.
Use zipper merging to exit the lot
We here at Lifehacker subscribe to the zipper method of merging into traffic. Most of our readers agree:
“When leaving a parking lot at the same time as a bunch of other people (i.e. following an event, anything at an arena, anytime at Costco or Sam’s Club), follow the zipper effect: one car goes from one lane, then one car from the other lane, zipping up into a single line to head out of the lot.” — DevonL
Don’t punish or police other drivers
Some commenters shared times where they chose to block or inconvenience a stranger based off what they deemed an “arsehole” parking job. I understand this urge. I, like you, am overflowing with spite. However, reader Millennial Falcon shares a reminder that you never know the full story behind someone’s parking job:
“If I park at the very back of a lot and take up two spaces, in an area where very obviously nobody will be inconvenienced, please do not park right next to my car. I’m parking back there because all the handicap spaces were taken and I need room to load my wheelchair when I get back to the car.”
However you choose to park, take a moment to consider what your placement might mean for the drivers around you.
Move on from that perfect spot
The most important piece of advice for parking lot etiquette: Get over yourself. We all want to find the perfect parking spot, and it feels so good when the perfect spot presents itself to you. Other times, you need to accept when your pursuit of perfection is inconveniencing those around you.
“If there are other cars behind you in the parking lane, you are only allowed to wait for a space to become free if the current occupants are actively getting in their car and are actually about to leave. If they’re still in the process of loading their groceries into their car or are buckling their kids in and still have to collapse the stroller and stow it in the back or any other such task that is not going to result in them vacating the spot in the next 20 seconds, then move on and stop blocking the parking lane. There are plenty of other spots just a little ways down from that one that are just as good, and in the time you’ve kept us all waiting we could have all parked and been in the store already if you weren’t so intent on snagging this spot that’s just a few feet closer. Your legs aren’t broken. If you’re the only one there, by all means, waste as much of your own time as you like, but as soon as someone pulls in behind you, move on.” — diasdiem
“Unless you have physical limitations, just take the first spot you see. You will be inside the store well before finding that unicorn parking spot.” — cycoivan
Similarly, user Weeks sums up the takeaway of this entire post: “10 extra seconds is a small price to pay to be less of an arsehole.” A little bit of consideration goes a long way, people.