Parking Lot Etiquette

Woman in Parking Lot

Driving in traffic is rule-governed.  Not just by government regulations, but by courtesy as well.

This is particularly true in parking lots.  Driving in a parking lot can be dangerous, and rules matter.  And yes, under some conditions, violations can warrant tickets.

I’m sure we all have experiences testifying to the anxiety Saturday shopping can cause.  But even this occasion can be made less stressful when everyone observes parking lot etiquette.

Dealing with Other People

No matter where you go – there they are: other people.  And they can be most annoying in parking lots.  Which is why driving through one on a busy day can seem like a never-ending exercise in patience!

To help you maintain that patience and avoid mishaps, parking lot rules are focused on safety: 

  • Always go slow!  Observe speed limits if posted.
  • Do not pass other cars who may be stopped or slowed down.  And only pass those stopped or temporarily parked on a curb if it is completely safe to do so.
  • Watch for pedestrians darting to their cars or walking behind you as you back out of a spot.
  • Your signal light lets others know why you are slowed to a stop and that you are claiming the spot another person is backing out of.
  • Always line your car within the white lines of a parking space.  You will prevent car door marks on your and others’ cars.
  • Avoid getting “creative” with making your own parking space in areas not designated for parking.
  • Be aware of one-way lanes and make sure you aren’t going in the opposite direction.

Unlike a street or roadway, parking lots are more of a “small group” environment because it is easier to make eye contact with those around you.  When you can see the face of the person who wants the same parking spot you do, courtesy is more likely to take over and lead you to search for another spot.

Remaining etiquette-ful and gracious, with a smiling attitude, is definitely the way to proceed.


Pedestrians have the right-of-way in parking lots, but there are rules regarding courtesy and safety that apply to them, too.

  • Use the painted walkways.
  • Beware of walking behind and among cars.  Stay to the right or left of the aisle and be ready to stop if someone in a moving car doesn’t see you.
  • Place shopping carts in designated areas. 

Being present and aware is the job of everyone.

The Foundation of Parking Lot Etiquette

As always, courtesy is at the core of etiquette.  And parking lots are no exception.  Add a dash of common sense and you have the makings of a pleasant situation.

  • If someone is struggling to get into a parking space, take a breath and don’t honk your horn.  Let kindness help you avoid making a tense situation worse.
  • When you see someone you know, don’t stop and roll down your window for a chat.  Save it for inside the store.
  • Never park in a handicap zone – even if it’s just for a minute.
  • Be especially cautious and watch for people backing out of a space with a blind spot.  A tap of your horn could prevent an accident.
  • If someone needs a smile, encouragement, or direction, offer it.

Parking lot etiquette is not complicated.  The bottom line is keeping courtesy and safety in mind at all times.  Look out for yourself and others.  And remember kindness matters - always.

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