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No matter how much you love to drive, each trip always comes to an end — and most of the time, it’s in a parking lot. A necessary navigation for most drivers, parking lots come in all shapes and sizes: open lots, underground, and multi-level garages.

While parking lots aren’t part of the normal roadway and are often private property, it is important to stay mindful of some simple rules of the road, especially as you cruise around for that perfect spot!

Snag the spot

Try to park in an optimal spot — those closest to the entrance or elevators, in well-lit areas. You want something very easy to find, and that provides you with more safety than rear or secluded exits. When you’ve zeroed in on the perfect spot, aim to back into it, rather than pull in. Doing this will make it safer for your departure, as pulling out gives you a full range of vision. Backing out of parking spots is one of the most dangerous things you can do; compromised sight-lines means increased potential for error or injury.

Sometimes it may not be physically or legally possible to back in. While we know that back up cameras are becoming more commonplace (and actually legally required on new cars and small trucks as of May 2018), but it's still important to practice checking all of your mirrors yourself rather than just relying on technology. It can help make you a better driver, and catch things outside of the cameras view.

Once you’re parked, take a photo with your phone of the parking stall number and aisle. Handy for overnight or long-term stays, or just in labyrinth-like parking structures, this will keep you from endlessly wandering in circles, wondering where you parked your car.

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Find your ride

You may be on autopilot heading back to your car after a long day of work, shopping, or a trip. However, it is important to stay aware of your surroundings. When walking to your car, be predictable for other drivers — follow walkways and avoid cutting in between cars. For your own personal safety, be prepared with your keys out and ready to go.

Hit the road

Before you shift into drive, secure any packages, bags, or parcels. Making sure everything is tucked away will keep you from trying to secure things while you’re driving. Having a bag of fresh groceries careening around your back seat isn’t a great recipe for success! If you plan to use GPS, listen to a podcast or a playlist, cue them up before you leave your parking spot to minimize distraction as you depart.

Follow the signs and traffic indicators as you leave the parking garage. While it may be tempting to cut corners, there is a strong potential for collision in these tight spaces. When you reach the exit and hit the road, look out for all road users: pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles. You may have to cross a sidewalk and a bike lane to access the street, so remember come to a full stop and look out for those on the street.

Parking lots can be busy places, with just as much traffic as roadways. Stay alert and calm to make parking a breeze!

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