Right-Of-Way In The Parking Lot

Question : I am driving out of a parking lot. Several meters ahead of me, the back up lights on car in a parked space come on. Do I continue driving forward past the car, which is obviously in reverse, as I have the right of way. Or do I stop and allow the car with the back up lights to reverse out of its space.

Similarly if I am backing out of a parking space when should I put my vehicle into reverse (lighting the back up lights)…..only when I see there are no other vehicles behind me? I have a friend who will not pass a vehicle in a parking lot if the vehicle has the back up lights on. Better safe than sorry is their approach. I am wondering what is correct.

Here’s my opinion on this:

I don’t think there’s always a yes/no/right/wrong answer.

Better safe than sorry- I can agree with that as a general rule of thumb for sure.

If you are driving along and a car is trying to back up the choice really is yours; you can keep going (and honk if necessary to alert the driver that you are going past) or you could stop and let the person out if you feel like it.

I think it is generally understood that cars in reverse must yield to cars going forward, but a car must also yield to any other car that is already in a space before them. Courts generally place blame on the vehicle who was reversing in the event of a collision.

Common sense and communication can go a long way.

I think also its important to put your car in reverse if you are trying to tell other drivers that you’d like to start reversing. Otherwise they will have no idea that you are trying to get out as they are not necessarily psychic.

I know that if people see the white lights sometimes they freak out because they think you are going to back into them but I don’t see anything wrong with having the car in reverse as a signal of intent; after all isn’t that what those lights are for, at least in part?

It all depends on the situation and what kind of message you want to send to people. Are there 5 people standing in the middle of the parking lot having a long conversation and are in your way?

Then maybe the white lights (and maybe a friendly honk) would be necessary. If you don’t have the lights on, then they simply might think you are sitting in your car waiting for someone. I would not put the car in reverse if there is a little old lady walking right behind you or a mother with a stroller; we do not want any heart attacks.

The other thing to realize is if you stop and let the vehicle out then there is little chance of it running into you. If you keep driving past a car that’s in reverse and there is miscommunication or the driver doesn’t see you or the drivers foot slips (or whatever else), then there is still a chance he could suddenly run into you as you go past.

And it probably wouldn’t be your fault but that’s beside the point. Hopefully we are all striving to avoid collisions regardless of fault.

Also I find If you let the car out then you have good karma and someone will let you out also. If you are planning to keep going don’t be afraid to do a short and Friendly tap on the horn to alert the driver.

This is not to get mad but just to say “hey, there is a car going behind you right now.”

Obviously it is hard to see when backing and people do not want to run into you; if they had a choice most people would gladly stop when they heard a horn honking rather than crashing into something they didn’t know was there.

Use eye contact whenever possible. People won’t freak out if you are looking at them to let them know that you’ve seen them. Of course this is a little difficult at times to obtain when vehicles and drivers are facing walls and fences and trees  and not one another.

I can not possibly write this article without mentioning that if everyone simply reversed into spaces, whenever possible then we wouldn’t even have much of this problem, would we?

Carmen Cohoe

Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in beautiful North Vancouver, BC, and taught many drivers for almost a decade including brand new drivers, drivers from various countries, and seniors, using automatic & standard vehicles and a minivan. She created BC Driving Blog in 2012.

7 thoughts on “Right-Of-Way In The Parking Lot

  1. when exiting a main road you appear on a road that allows you to access the parking lot, one road allows you to drive across the outside of the parking lot and another that allows you to enter the parking lot and they meet at a intersection (but not legally a intersection since theres no stop signs) when theres a accident (tbone) whos at fault the person drive across the outside of the parking lot or the person trying to enter into the parking lot, heres a diagram if it helps with what im trying to explain (the road is not a main road< its the access road to get to the parking lot)
    I parkihng I
    I lot I
    —————– I– –I—————–
    road road
    ——————–I I — ——————–
    I road I
    I I

  2. Reading through the comment and scenario’s, I see this sort of thing happens more regularly than I though, dealing with a situation where our vehicle was clearly backing out of parking stall to a parking lot road way, another car came into the road and (admittedly the other driver said) wasn’t paying close attention and hit our vehicle, ICBC is still holding the reversing vehicle at fault – what? seriously!
    I have read the B.C Motor Vehicle Act on this and read about on the ICBC site – but really, how is this on any level rational? It is not!
    This loop hole is allowing people NOT to use any sort of cognitive thinking and get away with being ignorant and I think some of them even look for these situations out in order to file claims to have previous damages to their car fixed or worse, injury claims (only saying it wouldn’t be beyond some) and they won’t be denied in accordions to the rules no matter that the negligence was full on their part.
    I read all about how you should back into a parking stall, really how does that help the situation, people will do the same stupid move and drive behind you, so how does that help, you are still going to be a fault according to rules.
    I have driven for many years and I don’t know when the common decency rules of the road changed to a level that is totally unexpectable – SOMETIMES YOU ARE NOT FIRST

  3. But if you run into somebody, even if they are perpendicular to your vehicle, while backing into a parking spot you are at 100% fault! Apparently.

  4. I backed into a parking space at the Walmart in Port Coquitlam, when another driver stopped me and said it was illegal in Canada to back into a parking space. Unless there are specific signs that says “no backing into spot”, it’s allowed, right???

    1. Hi, there is no law that says that. This is from the motor vehicle act on backing, this is our law on backing :

      Caution in backing vehicle
      193 The driver of a vehicle must not cause the vehicle to move backwards into an intersection or over a crosswalk, and must not in any event or at any place cause a vehicle to move backwards unless the movement can be made in safety.

      So as long as it is safe… you are allowed to reverse into a parking spot.

      1. But if you are backing up into a parking spot and a vehicle comes perpendicular to you and you hit them you are 100% at fault. Unless a police officer has issued the forward moving vehicle a ticket for being an idiot! The forward moving vehicle can see everything in front of them. The reversing vehicle cannot see everything. The fault should be on the forward moving vehicle that obviously isn’t paying attention to the vehicle already there and reversing. That vehicle should have the right of way. Period. I believe it’s called following to close to the vehicle in front of you.

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