March 31, 2008


     I stopped my patrol car beside a woman leaving her car after parking on the wrong side of a residential street. (In other words she parked facing northbound on the southbound side of the street.) I politely informed her that parking on the wrong side of the street is against the law and she should resist repeating this in the future, especially when doing it in front of a police car.

     Rather than a thank you (I could have issued her a moving violation as well as a parking citation), she replied, smugly, “What’s the big deal?” Well, let’s see; what is the big deal? I’ll explain.

     First, many drivers are just plain lazy and it’s simply easier to do it the wrong way. Second, they fail, or perhaps refuse, to understand the overt and subtle reasons for such a parking restriction. It’s virtually impossible to park on the wrong side of the road without first driving on the wrong side of the road to get to the parking space. You’d think no one would argue that driving in an oncoming lane is against the law and can be pretty darned dangerous, but you’d be wrong; for some reason some drivers think they’re exempt from traffic laws while driving in a parking mode.   

     Consider next that parking facing the wrong direction positions the driver in such a way that when he attempts to reenter traffic, his driver’s side will be on the curb side of the car rather than the traffic side, with traffic headed toward him rather than in the same direction. This compromised position is compounded when a larger vehicle, especially a container truck or van, parks in front of your car. Just try to watch for oncoming traffic when you’re sitting on the sidewalk side of the car and there’s a large vehicle in front of you blocking your view.

     Another consideration people fail to recognize is that cars are designed so that red lenses, which double as reflectors, are located in the rear of the vehicle; front lights are clear and amber, and do not reflect headlights efficiently. Try this experiment the next time you’re driving down a dark street with cars parked both legally and in the wrong direction. You’ll notice your headlights will more than adequately illuminate the rear red lenses, but cars parked in the opposite direction have no such red reflection on the front and you’ll be amazed by the contrast and how difficult it can be to see them, especially in foul weather.

      A final important element: Cops and Parking Enforcement Officers routinely enforce parking the wrong way on primary arterials (busy streets), but commonly tolerate it when done on residential streets. Even so, drivers should keep in mind that if they are involved in a collision when entering or exiting an illegally parked position, they’ll likely be found at-fault for the collision. They’ll be cited appropriately and may be held legally liable for resultant injuries and damage.


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