Tactical Parking for Swift Egress and Evasion

by September 16, 2010 09/16/10
Tactical Parking

So how many of you tactically park, that is pull forward or reverse into a parking spot?

If you don’t, I’d like to give you some reasons to consider getting in the habit of doing so and thinking defensively about the way in which you stage your vehicle.

The primary reason to park in this manner is that it just makes sense. Yes, it takes a bit of time to reverse into your driveway or a parking spot, but the benefits far outweigh the time it takes.

Increased Field of View

When backing out of a parking space your field of view is severely limited looking through a rear-view mirror and can cause you to miss oncoming traffic, people walking, etc. I basically live on a T-intersection and when backing out of my driveway I wind up looking like my motions are being fast-forwarded trying to keep my eyes on all three different paths of traffic.

It’s essentially the same pulling out after backing in, but I have a greater field of view and better use of my peripheral vision, which is truly beneficial.

Head on a Swivel

Something I always repeat to myself no matter where I am, is “keep your head on a swivel.” This mnemonic device helps me stay focused and always watching everything. This goes for whether I’m at a restaurant, walking my dog or driving a vehicle. I’m always trying to stay aware of my surroundings and possible threats, but at the same time not drawing attention to sporadic movements.

I take this same approach when driving and feel that by tactically parking, I gain an advantage of being more aware of what’s around me at all times and facing any possible threats. There’s just something you loose when backing out. Make yourself back into your driveway or parking spot next time you come home, you’ll see what I mean when you go to leave.

Egress & Evasion

The last and definitely not least important reason to tactically park is simply being able to quickly leave your location. It’s tremendously faster to jump in the vehicle, start it up and immediately pull out, rather than having to reverse out into traffic. Not to mention safer.

This goes for whether you may have to leave during an emergency situation where seconds count, or could even be for those situations you see in the movie where a Zombie is chasing you. Seriously though, next time you park somewhere start war gaming it. “What would happen if I had to leave in a hurry?” “What if I was being chased? When you start thinking this way it will be a no-brainer that you should tactically park.

One thing you won’t or should never see in Secret Service or PSD work is backing out with a VIP. It’s like walking backwards into a room to clear it, you’d never do that would you? Always face potential incoming threats.

Notes

Give it a shot and try to get into the habit of tactically parking. Don’t become lazy about it either. After using the technique for awhile it gets easier, trust me. You’ll stop even thinking about it and just do it naturally.

By using this technique you’ll occasionally have to park further out in order to find a spot you can pull through in, but hey, walking never hurt anyone!

So how many of you tactically park and what are your reasons for doing so?


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Mike Petrucci
Mike Petrucci

I wonder if parking the other way (so you have to reverse out) might be more beneficial in some situations. Hear me out.

With having the engine in the front (as it is in most vehicles), if you are in a crappy situation and need to push your way out, damage to the rear of your vehicle may not effect the drivability of your vehicle, right?

I'm not going to get mall ninja on you but if someone was shooting at you, this may be another benefit because you have less vital car parts in the way. Bullets won't be hitting the engine and have the potential to disable your car.

Just a thought.

Mike Petrucci
Mike Petrucci

I wonder if parking the other way (so you have to reverse out) might be more beneficial in some situations. Hear me out. With having the engine in the front (as it is in most vehicles), if you are in a crappy situation and need to push your way out, damage to the rear of your vehicle may not effect the drivability of your vehicle, right? I'm not going to get mall ninja on you but if someone was shooting at you, this may be another benefit because you have less vital car parts in the way. Bullets won't be hitting the engine and have the potential to disable your car. Just a thought.

Officer Muniz
Officer Muniz

I always play the what if game as well. I favor backing in every time, however some people that have real threats against them might want to consider the bennis of pulling in as well. Think about the location of the engine. I'd rather push another vehicle out of the way with the rear of mine saving the most important part of the vehicle...The engine.

Chris
Chris

Would it be possible for the author to address the concerns of airbags and the idea of using the rear of the car as a battering ram? As a 13 year police veteran, I have had this discussion multiple times with fellow officers. I have come to the conclusion when am parking in a wide open area I back in, because I can choose the direction I leave. Conversely, if I have to park with other vehicles nearby (i.e. spaces at the local circle k) I nose the vehicle in so that,in the event I am blocked in, I can ram my way out without damaging the radiator, tires, fan, hood (blocking vision). I would venture to guess the Secret Service and PSD's have their airbags disconnected and the front of the vehicle is reinforced specifically for ramming. Thoughts?

Yan
Yan

I park "tactically" since I have a driving permit. I even trained my girlfriend to always park "head out". It's just an extension of tactical driving... Also, when you get to your destination, you're "hot", you just drove x miles, you feel your car, it's the best time to backup. Backing up while "cold", you're not as aware of your vehicle, and your driving reflexes are not heated up yet... In a H parking position, and there is no other car, you enter by the bottom side and get your car up to the upper "exit". No backing up at all involved. I think people who park head in just dont understand what driving means. Same type of people that get to a H parking and park in the lower portion. WTF, someone will block you by parking in the upper portion. Like this: http://i47.tinypic.com/2qu29t1.png

JA Simmons V
JA Simmons V

One thing to consider for tactical egress is the make of your car. Most modern cars have the crumple zone that is meant to destruct during impact. In a situation where you need to ram a blockage to escape, would you rather hit it head on and risk destroying your radiator, front steering, etc, or back into the blockade destroying your rear tires, rear suspension, and possibly your rear portion of your drivetrain (for RWD vehicles). I tend to op for a punctured gas tank, then a punctured radiator.

Vic
Vic

Hey,

I've always back in or pulled through, and here's my reasoning. Whether backing in or out, you're at a disadvantage due to your limited field of view. As I pull up to a spot, I have a far greater awareness of pedestrian and vehicular activity than I ever could after getting into the car to pull out, so I chose to maximise this advantage and back in to park (or pull through in a public lot, if I can).

I, too, have had situations where I need strollers, etc., and I try to take this into account by leaving more space behind me, or parking somewhere where I'm less likely to get back-boxed.

Of course, there's always some knucklehead determined to see how close they can get, and then I just pull forward a little, load-and-go.

Quick exits and other considerations occurred to me later.

Nice site, btw. Am learning a lot.

Cheers,

Vic from Canada

Vic
Vic

Hey, I've always back in or pulled through, and here's my reasoning. Whether backing in or out, you're at a disadvantage due to your limited field of view. As I pull up to a spot, I have a far greater awareness of pedestrian and vehicular activity than I ever could after getting into the car to pull out, so I chose to maximise this advantage and back in to park (or pull through in a public lot, if I can). I, too, have had situations where I need strollers, etc., and I try to take this into account by leaving more space behind me, or parking somewhere where I'm less likely to get back-boxed. Of course, there's always some knucklehead determined to see how close they can get, and then I just pull forward a little, load-and-go. Quick exits and other considerations occurred to me later. Nice site, btw. Am learning a lot. Cheers, Vic from Canada

Ken
Ken

Jumping on...

I've backed in since I drove big trucks many years ago. Now, in the years I've been an officer I don't recall the first time I've responded to a private property collision where the moving vehicle was pulling out of a parking space. 90% plus are folks backing out of parking space. Most of the rest are folks who are driving far too large a vehicle for their skills or simply not paying attention.

Backing in at home makes sense as I don't have as far to load and unload the car.

Ken
Ken

Jumping on... I've backed in since I drove big trucks many years ago. Now, in the years I've been an officer I don't recall the first time I've responded to a private property collision where the moving vehicle was pulling out of a parking space. 90% plus are folks backing out of parking space. Most of the rest are folks who are driving far too large a vehicle for their skills or simply not paying attention. Backing in at home makes sense as I don't have as far to load and unload the car.

Aaron
Aaron

You can get ticketed in my city for "parking the wrong way" Yup... if you use a municipal parking lot or structure and back into it, you receive a ticket where I live.

Other than raising revenue, I don't see any rational reason why this rule is in effect. In a different municipality I saw the same posted rule, but with a difference - a sign explained that they didn't want muffler exhaust harming the grasses abutting the lot, or possibly being ignited on a hot dry day. But that situation really doesn't apply where I live...

Aaron
Aaron

You can get ticketed in my city for "parking the wrong way" Yup... if you use a municipal parking lot or structure and back into it, you receive a ticket where I live. Other than raising revenue, I don't see any rational reason why this rule is in effect. In a different municipality I saw the same posted rule, but with a difference - a sign explained that they didn't want muffler exhaust harming the grasses abutting the lot, or possibly being ignited on a hot dry day. But that situation really doesn't apply where I live...

Mike
Mike

"Something I always repeat to myself no matter where I am, is “keep your head on a swivel.” This mnemonic device helps me stay focused and always watching everything."

That's not a mnemonic device. That's just a thing you say.

Mike
Mike

"Something I always repeat to myself no matter where I am, is “keep your head on a swivel.” This mnemonic device helps me stay focused and always watching everything." That's not a mnemonic device. That's just a thing you say.

beren1hand
beren1hand

"By using this technique you’ll occasionally have to park further out in order to find a spot you can pull through in, but hey, walking never hurt anyone!"

It sure hurts if the zombies get you because you parked so far away!

beren1hand
beren1hand

"By using this technique you’ll occasionally have to park further out in order to find a spot you can pull through in, but hey, walking never hurt anyone!" It sure hurts if the zombies get you because you parked so far away!

Black09JK
Black09JK

I use the "tactical parking" method all the time. Another thing I like to do is pull in to parking spots in the row closest and parallel to the street. Having a Jeep with 35" tires it gives me the option of rolling the curb and or small shrubs to make a hasty getaway directly into the street. Whereas a "bad guy" will either have to maneuver their vehicle to go through my now open spot to follow or, if their vehicle isn't capable of traversing the obstacle, go all the way around to the lot exit.

Obviously, this method can only be used in certain circumstances. Parking lot, street, structure layout all play a big part. It just another way to use the tools I have at my disposal to my advantage. The Jeep is not going to fair well in any high speed chases so gaining those extra seconds is critical in my mind. Oh ya, and no soccer moms parking under the rear bumper makes stroller loading a breeze.

Black09JK
Black09JK

I use the "tactical parking" method all the time. Another thing I like to do is pull in to parking spots in the row closest and parallel to the street. Having a Jeep with 35" tires it gives me the option of rolling the curb and or small shrubs to make a hasty getaway directly into the street. Whereas a "bad guy" will either have to maneuver their vehicle to go through my now open spot to follow or, if their vehicle isn't capable of traversing the obstacle, go all the way around to the lot exit. Obviously, this method can only be used in certain circumstances. Parking lot, street, structure layout all play a big part. It just another way to use the tools I have at my disposal to my advantage. The Jeep is not going to fair well in any high speed chases so gaining those extra seconds is critical in my mind. Oh ya, and no soccer moms parking under the rear bumper makes stroller loading a breeze.

Tom Harding
Tom Harding

Something to consider in tactical parking...it assumes your egress direction is clear. If ramming is needed to get through an obstacle (ex. another vehicle) the last thing you want to hit it with the front of your vehicle (unless specially armored). Doing so will not only deploy airbags (blowing your hands off the steering wheel) in most modern vehicles, but will render your vehicle inoperable; thus the reason demolition derby drivers drive backwards. Learn to drive backwards and then execute a J turn (The Rockford). Situation of course dictates.

Sarge
Sarge

When I was stationed in Germany during the Cold War, we of the intel community considered it second nature. we were also in the habit of doing a "walk around" our vehicles, due to the Red Army Faction's love of explosives.

Israel Jensen
Israel Jensen

I have the same thing, however I rather have to deal with the pain and hasstle of unloading and loading strollers then the what if situation that I come up with just before we park. As for the jerk behind you pulling in to far what I do is put my tailgate down when I park to prevent him/her from doing that, I also carry DMV Drivers Learners Permit class card in my truck for the jerk that does that and put it in the windshield. As for firearms and stuff in the house and vehicle, I make sure the weapons are in easy to reach places that are not obviouse to others but still out of reach of my kids. It's not an easy task by anymeans I'll tell you that, but if you play the "what if" game as much as I do it's worth the hasstle of finding these places. My kids are still young but we still tell them not to touch the guns or knives and it works.

William O. B'Livion
William O. B'Livion

In many states cars have both front and back plates. Not having a front plate is grounds for being stopped.

Lesane
Lesane

I am in Japan, and backing in is the standard way of parking here. I would estimate 85% of people back their cars in. On top of that, it is mandatory at work for our patrol cars (as others have mentioned above), so it is becoming a healthy habit for me that will follow me back to the U.S. when I return.

Shawn P.
Shawn P.

I do this and have been for many years, for many reason that were listed. Also it's easier for my larger vehicle to enter/leave a tight parking space in this manner.

The drawback as mention is the angled parking spaces, in my area you will receive a citation for pulling through or backing into angled parking spaces if that lane is one way. Anytime I can back in I do even at home.

Shawn P.
Shawn P.

I do this and have been for many years, for many reason that were listed. Also it's easier for my larger vehicle to enter/leave a tight parking space in this manner. The drawback as mention is the angled parking spaces, in my area you will receive a citation for pulling through or backing into angled parking spaces if that lane is one way. Anytime I can back in I do even at home.

Aielo Jimenez
Aielo Jimenez

One other issue I see is parking head out when the parking lot has angled parking spaces. It would be a bit difficult to pull out of your spot on an angle especially if you have a large SUV. The alternate would be to go against traffic, but that would potentially give you more issues.

On the other hand, using blind spot mirrors on both rear-view mirrors will help quite a bit in backing into your space.

Aielo Jimenez
Aielo Jimenez

One other issue I see is parking head out when the parking lot has angled parking spaces. It would be a bit difficult to pull out of your spot on an angle especially if you have a large SUV. The alternate would be to go against traffic, but that would potentially give you more issues. On the other hand, using blind spot mirrors on both rear-view mirrors will help quite a bit in backing into your space.

CENTCOMSurvivor
CENTCOMSurvivor

One thing to consider is your location also. Sometimes you don't want your vehicle to sick out (visibly).

For the most part only "tactically oriented" people and dopers/bad guys back their cars in. Tactically for the above reasons and the dopers/bad guys don't want the police running their tags.

When I go through a parking lot, say at a motel, I'm always suspicious of the backed in vehicles. The dopers/bad guys probably think the same thing since they tend to back their cars in.

Just something to consider as sometimes its better to blend in.

CENTCOMSurvivor
CENTCOMSurvivor

One thing to consider is your location also. Sometimes you don't want your vehicle to sick out (visibly). For the most part only "tactically oriented" people and dopers/bad guys back their cars in. Tactically for the above reasons and the dopers/bad guys don't want the police running their tags. When I go through a parking lot, say at a motel, I'm always suspicious of the backed in vehicles. The dopers/bad guys probably think the same thing since they tend to back their cars in. Just something to consider as sometimes its better to blend in.

Jim O.
Jim O.

I park this way almost every time too. I used to be a truck driver and after learning to back an 18 wheeler I could back my car like never before. When it comes to a semi pulling straight in is setting yourself up for potential disaster. Imaging backing out with a 65 foot blind spot so naturally we learned how to quickly and safely back into the spot or pull through. A car pulled into a spot faces the exact same challenge but rather than a 65 foot blind spot your blind spot is only as long as the vehicle parked next to you. If the vehicle's window are tinted or very much higher than yours it makes it that much harder. I'm also a former deputy sheriff and we always parked facing out of the spot for obvious reasons.

TBG
TBG

I actually never gave much thought to the whole 'turn your cabin light off so it doesn't attract attention' thing before, but I gotta say, great idea. I mean, how often do you really NEED the light when you're getting in the car? 9 times out of 10 I find myself only using it to find dropped articles on the floor of the car or to read a map in the dark, and once you start driving, the light is off anyway. Also if you make it a habit to perpetually leave the light in the 'off' position unless it's completely necessary, it saves you the trouble of accidentally leaving it on all night and then waking up to a dead battery in the morning. Although an unlikely scenario, I'd say the good far outweighs the bad with that one.

As for parking though, I've always preferred backing into spots. It's the same way that I prefer to sit in a room facing the door; ease of exit, and you can keep tabs on your surroundings much easier without incurring as much anxiety. Plus, once you get used to it, I find it becomes easier to do than to pull into spots forwards if approaching from a 90 degree angle, especially in an unfamiliar/large car. It's happened plenty of times where I have been driving my friend's 7-series (which is more or less a cruise ship with wheels) in a narrow lot where I didn't have enough space to turn into a spot forwards and as a result have had to spend valuable (beer) shopping time correcting my angle of approach.

TBG
TBG

I actually never gave much thought to the whole 'turn your cabin light off so it doesn't attract attention' thing before, but I gotta say, great idea. I mean, how often do you really NEED the light when you're getting in the car? 9 times out of 10 I find myself only using it to find dropped articles on the floor of the car or to read a map in the dark, and once you start driving, the light is off anyway. Also if you make it a habit to perpetually leave the light in the 'off' position unless it's completely necessary, it saves you the trouble of accidentally leaving it on all night and then waking up to a dead battery in the morning. Although an unlikely scenario, I'd say the good far outweighs the bad with that one. As for parking though, I've always preferred backing into spots. It's the same way that I prefer to sit in a room facing the door; ease of exit, and you can keep tabs on your surroundings much easier without incurring as much anxiety. Plus, once you get used to it, I find it becomes easier to do than to pull into spots forwards if approaching from a 90 degree angle, especially in an unfamiliar/large car. It's happened plenty of times where I have been driving my friend's 7-series (which is more or less a cruise ship with wheels) in a narrow lot where I didn't have enough space to turn into a spot forwards and as a result have had to spend valuable (beer) shopping time correcting my angle of approach.

Thompson
Thompson

Exactly why we back the vehicles in in the Army

Bryan
Bryan

I'm a police driving instructor, and we teach officers to back in whenever they park, simply because the likelihood of them being in a hurry when they leave someplace is pretty strong...since they may be responding to an emergency call.

Steve
Steve

We've resorted to parking this way (garage) due to all the kids in the neighborhood. We have an elementary school just up the street and this helps visibility...and gets us out quicker if needed...such as a trip to the liquor store, DQ, etc.

Rob
Rob

I totally agree, and tactically orient my vehicle every time I park. It drives my wife nuts. However, after 7 years, she's getting used to it (finally)!

As far as why? all the reasons listed above... That in addition to years of backing trucks into firehouses, you just kind of get used to it...

Rob
Rob

I totally agree, and tactically orient my vehicle every time I park. It drives my wife nuts. However, after 7 years, she's getting used to it (finally)! As far as why? all the reasons listed above... That in addition to years of backing trucks into firehouses, you just kind of get used to it...

Jasper Pettit
Jasper Pettit

One thing I love about this site, is that, occasionally, it will validate something I do in daily life that others give me s*** about. I'm usually pretty fastidious about parking so I can just drive right out. The only exception is my driveway, where it's actually faster for me to do it backwards.

deadhorse
deadhorse

Simple procedure to ensure security. This is second nature after years in the Army.

waykno
waykno

Odd so many have so much to say on this subject. Anywho--besides the tactical points, it is safer to back in to a spot. You can see more of your surroundings as you pull up to a spot, so as you back in, less chance to back into something or someone. If not, the time it takes to get in, buckle up, start, etc., someone, maybe a biker, child or pet could be behind you. When leaving after backing in--better view. Most of the time you will either back in or back out, so why not back in first? SOP for the USPS. The white mail trucks should always back in--exceptions, e.g., Wendy's Hamburgers or those with diagonal parking marked off as they would have to drive against the flow of traffic. There are exceptions but for the most part, I back in when I arrive.

Forrest
Forrest

I do this everytime for the same reasons. Although, I've never thought of it as tactical parking. I think it's just easier to back into a space, as long as you have situational awareness and don't mistake one car for another (stupid people parking 2 of the same cars next to each other, nearly nailed on)

Pig Monkey
Pig Monkey

(Sorta related)

One of my great annoyances are people who leave their interior lights set to automatic, so that they turn on whenever you open the door. What better way to attract attention to yourself in a dark parking lot or neighborhood?

Pig Monkey
Pig Monkey

(Sorta related) One of my great annoyances are people who leave their interior lights set to automatic, so that they turn on whenever you open the door. What better way to attract attention to yourself in a dark parking lot or neighborhood?

Lars Dahlin
Lars Dahlin

I always use tactical parking at work and in my own free time. I do however name it Fancy Parking when I'm off duty.

Daniel Garcia
Daniel Garcia

Standard police practice and a good way to get to work on time. :-)

ZenEngineer
ZenEngineer

My tactical parking usually involves location, rather than orientation in the spot: parking spots that are closer to parking lot exits, next to other things (curbs, trees, etc.) so there is not a car on both sides of mine, shade (in summer), close to a building exit, viewable from inside the building. Not every parking solution fits every requirement, but I try.

sjdouglass38
sjdouglass38

@Mike Petrucci 

I wholeheartedly agree.  As a professional in the litigation support field,  and having my vehicle as my primary 'office', there are times when pulling into a place maybe the better option.  Everything falls on situational awareness.  I personally tend to park further away where there is less congestion.  If this is a large lot situation, I also prefer to park near lamp posts and turn my wheels away.  This helps to provide a narrow coverage for both my vehicle and my self when exiting.   With the wheels turned, I can pull away without the need to roll forward and turn.

Christopher C.
Christopher C.

...also hurts when the people you're with have a degenerative lung condition or something where walking far isn't an option and a handicapped tag isn't an option either. In that case, drop them off, have a plan for a hasty pickup, practice in your neighborhood. Better to be looked at in a funny way than looked at dead or injured. (my response for Cruise's War of the World where people stared at the funny ET object, running would've looked silly if it was a harmless object but alas, it wasn't.)

Shift
Shift

I know, right? People always ask me why I back in and I usually just tell them "that's how you're supposed to do it".

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