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Parking Advice: Avoid Drive-Through Spaces

After driving for five hours I’m never at my best, so I parked with atypical abandon at the motel: on the downhill side of a pull-though parking space. Usually I park off to one side of the lot, directly under a lamp that lights the car and shadows the interior, with the hatch backed against the pole. I claim the stupid excuse.

The next morning we hiked out for breakfast and returned to find emergency vehicles scattered all over the motel’s lot. Even from a distance, we knew this might not have a good outcome for us: that’s our van going nose-to-nose with the EMS Medic’s SUV:

EMS Medic parking - overview

EMS Medic parking - overview

Up close, the situation turned out to be much much much better than I expected:

EMS Medic parking - bumper detail

EMS Medic parking - bumper detail

The siren was just kissing the front bumper of our van. I think the SUV rolled forward an inch when they released the brakes after slapping the tranny into Park and bailing out.

For what it’s worth, those fancy pusher bars on the front must be strictly for looks, because the siren & its control box really do stick out far beyond the bars. At the first serious contact they’ll crush back into the grille and do about a kilobuck worth of damage to the front end.

I think the driver wasn’t fully aware of how much snout that SUV has. It looks to be shiny-new, so perhaps this was the first close quarters parking experience:

EMS Medic parking - position detail

EMS Medic parking - position detail

I left a polite note on the driver’s side window pointing out that another two inches would mean we’d be filling out paperwork until noon.

They were gone by the time we left. The siren snagged the corner of the license plate and bent it out as they departed, but that’s not the first bend in that particular bit of sheet metal.

If any of you have a friend on the York PA Medic / EMS staff, give ’em a friendly heads-up for me, OK?

Memo to Self: Always park off to the side, dammit!

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  1. #1 by Erik on 2011-07-21 - 12:05

    The “bull bar” is installed so the driver can see where the nose of the vehicle is, not to ward off any damage. Evidently, that driver wasn’t informed of that. But yeah, in a Big Ol’ Crown Vic, you can tell within an inch how far up you can scoot – sort of like quarter lights on ambulances and big trucks. Handy. And yes, I suppose it turns bumper scrapes into radiator replacements, but I guess it limits bumper scrapes enough to be a win. Or it just looks cool.

    • #2 by Ed on 2011-07-21 - 12:50

      so the driver can see where the nose of the vehicle is

      Dunno. I’ve seen police cars pushing disabled vehicles off the TSP with those things, so they’re not entirely decorative: the half-inch steel plate and solid welded cross tubing looks like it ought to take a beating…

      tell within an inch

      With our Sienna, I’m absolutely certain there’s a front end out there somewhere, but I haven’t a clue as to where the bumper might be, because it’s all sloped downward below the window bezel from where I sit. My ladies have an even worse view, so it’s not just me.

      Entirely unlike my parents’ blocky 1968 Plymouth Fury, where you always knew exactly where the front end was: just over the horizon of that acre of hood and fenders. Ditto for the trunk: keep an eye in the mirror and you could back up snug against anything.

      • #3 by Erik on 2011-07-22 - 12:28

        They do a good job of looking beefy, but at least the ones on the EMS rapid response crown vics (“traffic friendly”, eh?) are held on with 1/4-20 bolts. So quite likely they make a Serious Version and a cosmetic product, maybe different vendors?

        • #4 by Ed on 2011-07-22 - 15:34

          held on with 1/4-20 bolts

          That’s the “safety breakaway” feature, using genuine counterfeit Grade 8 bolts

  2. #5 by hexley ball on 2011-07-21 - 20:07

    We just had our own drive-through parking near miss two days ago:

    Pulled into the parking lot adjacent to the boat launching ramp at Alpine Lake (Sierra Nevada). The slots were double length, so trucks pulling boat trailers would fit.

    We pulled through an empty slot and parked facing outwards in the corresponding slot on the far side of the center divider. Ready for our Le Mans lightning speed get-away, I thought — no need to back out.

    Except that on returning from our hike, we found our car nose-to-nose with another vehicle. Somebody must have been confused by the deep slots, thought we were on the far side, and so just pulled into what he thought was an empty slot of the usual size.

    So we were a Sienna sandwich — our rear blocked by a truck/trailer combo that arrived after us; our front blocked by one of the less perceptive drivers on the planet.

    Fortunately we had an escape route available with a little tight maneuvering to the side. Didn’t have to resort to the Boston method of getting a little more room: apply bumper to obstacle, gently give it the gas until obstacle is repositioned satisfactorily :-)

    • #6 by Ed on 2011-07-21 - 21:43

      an escape route available with a little tight maneuvering

      My father taught me that if you can move the car, even a little bit, you can get out of the spot. It may take a lot of back-and-forth wiggling, but you’ll get free.

      Which teaching came in handy when we visited a friend who lived in a condo. I parallel-parked in a marked Visitor slot, but one of her neighbors regarded that slot as his very own private parking space, what with it being convenient to the walkway to his back door and all. So when we went to go home, we were tightly parked in by a fancy Camaro (this being back in the day) with half a parking space open to its rear; the car ahead of me had the same few feet of clearance I left when I parked. I spent the next quarter hour backing up until the Camaro went nose-down in the mirror, easing forward to not quite touch the car ahead, turning the wheel lock-to-lock, working slowly to the driveway side, and eventually escaping. Probably scrubbed 500 miles off the front tires in the process.

      Judging from the smudges on my Plymouth Valiant’s chromed steel stern bumper, those fancy plastic Camaro bumpers really weren’t suited for the task. Word had it the guy got religion on not parking people in after that…