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8 Things You Should Never Do in a Parking Lot, Etiquette Experts Say

Manners matter even more behind the wheel.

It's no secret that getting behind the wheel can bring out some of people's worst impulses. All too often, that bad behavior—driven by impatience, frustration, and selfishness—also continues into parking lots. Of course, being mindful of your actions in a parking lot is about more than just courtesy. It's also, crucially, about safety—your and others'.

"Showing courtesy to other drivers and pedestrians makes the parking experience better for everyone," says Jules Hirst, founder and lifestyle coach at Etiquette Consulting. In fact, she and other etiquette experts say there are eight ways you may be offending others while parking—or worse, putting safety at risk.

RELATED: 6 Things You Should Never Do at the Grocery Store, Etiquette Experts Say.

Don't swoop in to steal a parking space.

A line up of cars in a parking lot
Shutterstock / Laszlo66

Just as you wouldn't push your way up to the front of a line, you should never swoop in to steal a parking space if someone else is waiting.

"Parking space piracy is a huge no-no. It is important that you wait your turn and follow the first come, first serve rule," says Hirst.

This goes double for parking spots that are designated for private use. Keep moving until you find a spot that's open to the public and uncontested by other drivers.

Don't park over the lines.

Red car parked over the lines in a parking lot with two white cars next to it

When you're looking for a parking space, there's nothing more annoying than finally finding one that's partially blocked by a neighboring car.

"There is a reason that parking spaces have painted lines," says Hirst. "If your car is taking up more than one spot, either adjust your parking job so that you fit in between the lines or realize that your car isn't a compact and you need to find another spot that your car will actually fit into."

Jodi RR Smith, founder of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, agrees that this is an all-too-common parking lot offense. "If you have trouble parking and need to take up more than one space, park as far away as possible to avoid inconveniencing others," she advises.

Don't drive dangerously.

Modern underground parking lot

Laura Windsor, founder of Laura Windsor Etiquette Academy, says that it's also important to never drive fast or recklessly in a parking lot. Always pay attention to signs, speed limits, and traffic flow, and avoid driving through an open space in a row to get to the other side. "It's hard for other drivers to see you coming through," she notes.

While many people let down their guards in parking lots, Windsor says it's especially important to be on the lookout for pedestrians and drive with caution in this setting. "Little kids may be running around with carts, senior citizens may not hear you. There are also many blind spots," she says.

"Parking lots are not racetracks," agrees Hirst. "It is imperative that you be focused and on alert while driving in a parking lot for your own safety and that of everyone else."

RELATED: 7 Things You Should Never Do at a Doctor's Office, Etiquette Experts Say.

Don't open your door carelessly.

Person opening car door into another car

Next, you should always take care to open your door slowly and carefully when other cars are parked nearby.

"Nobody likes to have dings and scratches on their car, especially from clumsy drivers who park too close and open their door into your car. Make sure to open your door cautiously so that you do not damage the car next to you," says Hirst.

If you do leave a ding on a parked car, leave a note with your name and phone number, Windsor advises. "It is the mannerly thing to do," she says.

Don't forget to calibrate your car alarm.

Woman closes the door or turns on the car alarm with a mobile phone. Device with running program for vehicle security. Innovative technologies in car security and access

Nothing gets the neighborhood up in arms quite like a car alarm that won't quit. That's why Hirst says you should never forget to set your car alarm intentionally.

"Make sure your car alarm is calibrated correctly so that it does not go off unnecessarily," says Hirst. "Nobody wants to listen to your alarm. If your alarm goes off, make sure to turn it off as soon as you can to not cause a nuisance."

Don't leave your shopping cart behind.

Red Shopping Cart in the Middle of a Parking Lot

When you're in the parking lot of a grocery store, one of the biggest offenses is leaving a stray shopping cart instead of parking it in the cart corral.

Windsor notes that by putting it back in the allocated space, you can prevent your cart from crashing into another automobile or obstructing someone's exit.

RELATED: The 7 Rudest Things You're Doing at Self-Checkout, Etiquette Experts Say.

Don't use a handicapped parking spot without permits.

White car parking in handicapped parking spot

It should go without saying that you should never park in a space that is reserved for individuals with disabilities if you're not entitled to priority parking. Not only is doing so unkind and unthoughtful, but it's also unlawful.

"Only occupy handicapped spots if you have your official handicapped placard," says Smith. She adds that "just running in to pick something up" is never an excuse for this egregious behavior.

Don't walk carelessly or assume drivers see you.

Two happy couples holding hands and walking together through a parking lot

Finally, Smith says that when you're strolling through a parking lot, you should walk extra carefully, presuming that drivers don't see you. "Be wary of weaving between parked cars and popping out in the next row. Drivers usually look for open spots, not roving people," she says.

Smith also adds that you should be conscious of never walking down the center of the parking lot. "Walk safely along the sides, not down the middle forcing drivers to creep along behind you," she advises.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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