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Parking Lot Traffic Control: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Does the MUTCD apply to parking lots?

A.

MUTCD does not apply to parking lots, as stated in MUTCD general FAQsThe Introduction of the 2009 MUTCD and the changes to the Code of Federal Regulations (23 CFR 655.603(a)) that were adopted on December 16, 2009, make it clear that the MUTCD does not apply to parking areas and driving aisles within parking areas, either privately or publicly owned.”

Q. What makes parking lots prone to accidents?

A.

Negligent driving, the often seen competition to grab the best parking spot, limited visibility around parked cars, ignoring parking lot traffic signs, and pedestrians walking just about anywhere but on set and marked pathways are the common causes of parking lot accidents. 

Additionally, poorly maintained lots with inadequate lighting, lack of proper parking lot traffic signage, and puddles, potholes, and pavement/pathway cracks and crevices further make these parking spaces unsafe and accident-prone.

Q. Who has the right of way in a parking lot?

A.
In most situations and unless otherwise necessitated by parking lot traffic signs, vehicles moving through thoroughfares have the right of way over vehicles leaving the feeder lanes while vehicles moving through feeder lanes have the right of way over those that are exiting a parking space. Also, if you are turning into a feeder lane, you should make way for traffic approaching from the opposite direction.

Q. Are parking lot accidents treated like other road accidents?

A.
An accident in a parking lot, in most cases, will still be treated as an accident but how the liability is determined, action taken, and penalties and/or punishments arrived at can vary across jurisdictions. Anyone involved in a parking lot accident should proceed as they would in a road accident and obtain the other driver’s details, file a police report, collect proofs if possible, and seek medical attention if and as required.

Q. How can parking lot accidents be prevented?

A.

Staying alert and obeying parking lot traffic signs can go a long way in preventing parking lot accidents. Drivers should avoid using their cellphones when pulling in and out of parking, stay in lanes and avoid overtaking other drivers, and look out for pedestrians, who should walk in designated pathways and avoid crowding. It is also a good idea to choose a well-lit parking spot, preferably closer to the establishment/entrance, and keep the vehicle doors locked, windows up to prevent thefts and robberies. 

A good parking lot design with clearly marked lanes, pathways, and parking spaces, clearly visible parking lot signs, and adequate lighting also contributes significantly to creating a safe and secure parking space. 

Q. Can a parking lot owner be held liable for any accident in the lot?

A.
Parking lot owners can be held liable for parking lot accidents that happened as a result of a poorly designed or inadequately maintained parking space. Blind spots, narrow lanes, surface cracks and damage, and poor lighting leading to accidents can land parking lot owners in trouble.
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