Who Has the Right of Way When Entering a Parking Lot?

Traffic flow and defined lanes help determine who has the right of way when entering a parking lot. Drivers in the primary lanes or driving around the parking lot typically have the right of way. However, the rules for right of way will depend on the circumstances and the area of the parking lot. Drivers should understand these rules and make the right decisions to prevent potential accidents.

Car parking in the supermarket complex.

What Is Right-of-Way?

In traffic law, the right of way, also known as “right-of-way,” details the right for someone to proceed through an area. Different statutes dictate right of way, with most giving pedestrians the right of way before vehicles.

Failure to adhere to rules regarding parking lot right of way could increase the risk of a parking lot accident.

Parking Lot Right of Way Rules: Who Gets to Go First?

Navigating parking lot traffic can be confusing for drivers. It may be unclear about when to yield, who needs to yield, and what to do in specific situations that are unique to parking lots.

Before getting into the details, it’s important for drivers to understand some key terms regarding parking lots, including:

  • Parking spots or spaces — These refer to the areas where drivers park their vehicles.
  • Parking or feeder lanes — These are the lanes of traffic that run between parked vehicles.
  • Main, through, or thoroughfare lanes — These are the primary lanes that run through or around the parking area, with these lanes often connecting to access or main roads to allow for entry and exit.

In addition to these terms, drivers should understand the different potential circumstances to determine who has the right of way and avoid an accident. The following are specific situations to consider:

When Exiting the Parking Spot

When a driver pulls out of a parking space, he or she must wait until there is plenty of clearance to begin pulling out. Typically, drivers pulling out would need to yield to other drivers passing through the lane. In some cases, drivers in feeder lanes may allow drivers to pull out. The yielding driver may then pull into the vacant spot.

When Driving on a Parking Lane

Drivers traveling through a parking lane normally have the right of way over parked vehicles. Drivers who want to back out will need to wait for other vehicles to pass or yield to them before pulling out. At the same time, the driver passing through should keep an eye out for vehicles that pull out or otherwise enter the lane.

When Entering a Lane

Drivers in the primary lanes retain the right of way in most cases. This means that if drivers want to make a turn out of the parking lane into a thoroughfare or through lane, they will need to yield to other drivers before completing the turn.

When Signals or Signs Are Present

Traffic signs may specify who has right of way in some parking lots. If stop or yield signs are present, drivers will need to obey these even if they normally wouldn’t apply. 

When Drivers Experience Doubts

If drivers are unsure about what to do, they should yield. For instance, drivers may get to an intersection at the same time as another driver, leading to uncertainty about who has right of way. Motorists in these cases should offer the other driver a chance to go, which will help avoid an accident.

What to Do if You’re Involved in a Parking Lot Accident

Drivers should have an understanding of the risks, realities, and liabilities of parking lot accidents, which will help them avoid accidents and deal with them properly if an accident takes place.

If a driver gets involved in an accident, there are some steps he or she should take to handle the situation:

  1. Find Out if Anyone Is Injured — The first step to take is to determine if anyone sustained injuries in the accident. If so, drivers should call the authorities. Even if individuals don’t sustain injuries, they may want to call 9-1-1 to create a police report supporting their claims. Victims should seek treatment immediately if they sustain injuries of any kind.
  2. Exchange All Information — Drivers should exchange information with the other people involved, including insurance details, license plate numbers, and contact information. Individuals should also take photos or record videos of the scene and damages.
  3. Report the Accident to Insurers — Regardless of the severity of the accident, individuals should report the accident to insurers. If injuries and damages are severe, it may be best to retain a lawyer after a parking lot accident.

Taking these steps following a parking lot accident can help drivers successfully navigate the claims and recovery process. Understanding the rules regarding right of way in parking lots can help avert accidents and maintain a safe environment for all drivers and pedestrians.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

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