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We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Door crash illustrates the perils of parking

February 17, 2012

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, February 17, 2012

A student walks past a sign in a parking lot in Calgary in this file photo. Photograph by: Ted Rhodes, Postmedia News

A surprising number of vehicle crashes happen in parking situations. You should always do a 360-degree check before entering or exiting a vehicle.

My friend was going home from work and decided to pull into a fast-food outlet to get some take-home supper. The Stanley Cup playoffs were on and he was intending to watch the game and eat at the same time. The area was very familiar to him. It was on a route that he had taken most every day to and from work. He pulled into the angle parking space in front of the fast-food outlet. The entire block was deserted, not a parked vehicle in sight. There was an eerie calm that day, given most sports fans and enthusiastic supporters of the Vancouver Canucks were already parked in front of a TV set somewhere in the city.

My friend checked around the car, looked over his left shoulder, paused to turn his car off, opened the driver door and wham, was hit by another driver who had parked beside him. He never saw it coming. Strange as it may seem, only his driver door was smashed. He was stunned at first and when he collected himself, he was thankful he was not injured. Another driver had pulled into the parking space adjacent to my friend’s car. My friend had seen this driver travelling south as he had glanced left from his angle parking space.

He was the only person, it seemed, on the road at that time and in that location. The driver who hit the door must have done a U-turn, he thought. Even if the driver had done a U-turn, it would not have had any bearing in determining fault in the crash. So who do you think was at fault? My friend was assessed as 100 per cent at fault for the collision. When he related the story to me, I was not surprised at all.

The driver who hit his vehicle had gone past my friend’s car and doubled back in order to claim the parking space immediately beside him on the driver’s door side. The entire turn by the driver who was executing the parking manoeuvre was done in my friend’s blind spot: That’s why he never saw it coming.

He asked the other driver why, with the entire block unoccupied by other parked vehicles, he would choose to park right beside another vehicle. The driver, who was the single occupant of the vehicle, shrugged and gave a lame “I don’t know” answer. At first my friend thought the other driver had committed an offence by crossing a double solid yellow line.

In fact, there was no such offence; the yellow solid lines pertain to passing, not turning. When I informed my friend of this distinction, he was somewhat despondent. But surely there must be an offence for hitting his car? No such luck. Had the other driver hit anything but the driver door, there would have been at least a split blame attached to the crash. If the door had not been hit at all and the damage confined to the body of the vehicle, the 100 per cent fault would likely be reversed.

The law assesses a fine of $81 and two penalty points for “open door when unsafe,” MVA 203(1). My friend was lucky the police did not attend, as there was a good chance a charge could very well have been levied against him. Many vehicle crashes take place in parking situations. Drivers should always do a 360-degree check before exiting or entering a vehicle. It only makes sense to do so when one is not protected by the safety afforded one while in a vehicle.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Wallace Driving School, operating on Vancouver Island and the Central Interior of British Columbia. stevedwallace@shaw.ca

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