For some time, there has been a debate whether it is safer to back into a parking space in the workplace. I believe it is a good risk management practice. Let me tell you why.
Roughly one in seven vehicle incidents occurs in parking lots. Therefore, it is a good area to focus on to reduce accidents. How employees park when they arrive at work can affect their day-to-day safety behavior. Let’s look at how backing into a parking space might make a person more safety conscious. Encouraging employees to back into parking spaces when they first arrive at work can cut down on the number of people who reverse their vehicles when leaving at the end of the day – a time when more people are tired, frustrated, and focused on rushing home. When reversing, drivers have a smaller field of vision. Add on being distracted with fatigue and frustrated with the day’s experiences, or excited about plans they have for the evening, and this could be a recipe for disaster. In the morning, people’s minds are sharper. Backing into a parking space promotes focusing your attention on safely getting your car into the space without incident. In most cases the driver doesn’t feel rushed or in a hurry. This puts the driver in a position to be more safety conscious.
Some municipalities hold safety talks or meetings at the start of each day, so that safety is at the top of everyone’s mind before they begin their daily tasks. Backing into a parking space can function in a similar way. It naturally triggers thoughts of why it’s necessary – because it is safer – and anything that gets employees to think about safety is a good thing. Starting one’s day with a safety conscious behavior sets a positive tone.
The act of backing into a space is a very visual and contagious habit. Everyone can see how their colleagues are parking, and as more and more do it, the progress can be motivating and act as a reminder while building a habit. Once everyone is in the habit of backing in, visitors and new employees will quickly take note that this organization takes safety seriously.
Emergencies almost always cause panic, confusion, and rushing. That is why so many fire departments back their trucks into their bays when reentering the fire station garage. When an emergency call comes in, time may mean a life lost. It is much easier to get into a vehicle and drive out forward than backing out. By backing into the space when you are not panicked or confused or in rush mode, like you might be during an emergency, you make it easier to get going and do some good. This works for all employees in most situations; back in when you get there, drive straight out when you leave, and with a lot less stress.
Now, why is this important for your organization? It helps build or shift a safety culture. There are certain small behavioral changes that can trigger seemingly unrelated benefits. These are known as “keystone habits.” Small habits are often the catalyst for larger change. Once a habit is in place (like backing into parking spaces at work), you can build on it by adding steps into the habit later. These additional steps might include making sure we put the vehicle into park, setting the parking brake, using the vehicle to help us get out without slipping during inclement weather, and doing a complete walk-a-round of the vehicle before getting in and taking off. Because a person creates the habit of backing into their parking space they become more safe and efficient, and new habits will be easier to build.
Backing into parking spaces is only one of many tools to combat distracted driving. It is also one that you can begin prompting right away, and it requires little or no financial commitment. By openly communicating the importance of backing into parking spaces and leading by example, you can take a small but valuable step towards making your workplace safer and reducing backing and parking claims.