This holiday season, as shopping mall parking lots fill with millions of vehicles, AAA warns drivers to avoid a common parking lot mistake. According to a new survey, more than three quarters (76 percent) of U.S. drivers most frequently park their vehicle by pulling forward into a parking spot, rather than backing in, a riskier practice that driving experts warn leaves pedestrians more vulnerable when a driver later reverses from the spot and into the traffic lane.
“Recognizing that American parking habits differ from much of the world, automakers are increasingly adding technology to vehicles that is designed to address rear visibility concerns,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “However, AAA’s testing of these systems reveals significant shortcomings when used in real-world conditions and Americans should rely more on driving skills than technology.”
In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA tested rear cross traffic alert systems, designed to alert drivers to traffic passing behind a reversing vehicle, and found significant system limitations exist when parked between larger vehicles, such as SUVs or minivans. In this common parking lot scenario, the tested systems failed to detect pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles and other vehicles at alarming rates:
- A passing motorcycle was not detected by the systems in 48 percent of tests.
- The systems failed to detect a bicycle passing behind the vehicle 40 percent of the time.
- The systems failed to detect a passing vehicle 30 percent of the time.
- While not all systems are designed to detect pedestrians, the technology failed to detect pedestrians 60 percent of the time.
“AAA’s independent testing showed that rear cross traffic alert systems failed to work effectively in several test vehicles,” cautioned Megan McKernan, manager of the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center. “It’s critical that drivers reverse slowly and use this technology as an aid to, not a substitute for, safe driving.”
(Drivers should note that backing into parking spaces in some areas and venues is prohibited and backing into “angled” parking lot spaces may leave motorists driving the wrong way when exiting certain lots.)
Previous AAA testing of rear-view camera systems, required on all new vehicles by 2018, revealed significant consumer benefits including increased visibility of the rear blind zone by an average of 46 percent. However, it’s important to note that no system shows 100 percent of the space behind a vehicle and that rain, snow or slush can impede camera visibility.
“When it comes to parking, the majority of American drivers are on the naughty list this year,” continued Nielsen. “Pulling out of a parking spot, instead of reversing, is an easy way to increase safety and visibility in busy parking lots this holiday season.”