Parking Lot Safety

Published 6 years, 5 months ago

When you have children who are new to walking, getting things out of a car while in a parking lot can be a nerve-wracking experience: you know that your kid is capable of walking in any direction, and also that they’re not really aware of the dangers a parking lot can contain.

Following the philosophy of “don’t baby-proof the environment, make the baby proof for the environment”, we had two parking lot rules that worked out pretty well, used for different stages of development.

  1. Hand on the car.  When out of the car, one of the child’s hands must always be touching the car unless a parent is holding their hand.  This sets a bound on how far away they can get from you.
  2. Feet on the yellow line.  The lines separating parking spaces are treated as if they’re balance beams.  The child can walk along the line, but not step off of it, unless a parent is holding their hand.  This keeps the child between cars and away from the flow of traffic.

Obviously, these require training periods, and during that training you have to keep an eagle eye on the kid.  And of course you can’t rely on these rules to keep your children completely safe in a parking lot—only you can do that.  In our experience, though, it greatly reduced our stress levels even in busy Christmas-time lots; plus, it was another way to stress the importance of both safety and obedience.


  1. From the “When Engineers/Designers become parents” category: I love it.

    Our rule has been, ‘Stand fast’, when getting out of the car. Our well-behaved son has managed to get this done VERY consistently: he has to stand still until he has an adult hand. I like your strategy, though. I will have to try that, should the current plan lose its charm.

  2. “Obviously, these require training periods”

    this sound like you’re training a dog! ;)

    i am obviously joking, and i’m not a parent, so it’s easy for me to be the wiseguy..

  3. Actually, tom, it’s very much like training a dog. The rewards and punishments are (usually) different, but the overall process is quite similar: a mix of positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, repetition, and patience.

  4. We have employed the “feet on the line” method with good success with our kids, but I like the “hands on the car.” We’ll have to try that. We sometimes do something similar when pushing buggies in the store or in the parking lot–“one hand on the buggy.”

  5. Parking garages are worse. I have to be on full alert for myself at work because of cars flying around corners and down (or up) the ramps.

  6. Give that child NO rope to hang themselves with and you will never be the regretful parent of any avoidable accident. Keep your kid strapped into their seats while you do anything else. The split second it takes for you to load one item is all it takes for a car to take that child’s life. What if they are standing on that line, following your rule while the driver of a car parking next to yours loses a grip momentarily on the steering wheel and grinds into the side of yours– with your kid between both?

    Bottom line: put them in the car, seatbelts on, A/C on– then load your “stuff” into the car. When getting out– unload car FIRST, then take kids out. Never leave any child in a position of risk when you can secure them in the vehicle.

    This advice might save the life of someone you love.

  7. Nothing in the post can or should be taken as advice to put a child on the ground next to a moving car.

    Give us (both me and the readers of this site) credit for possessing some intelligence, Rob. It would be appreciated.

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