The parking mistake millions of Aussies are making – what do you do?

How you park in a shopping centre car park matters, the experts say.

It's something drivers might not think too much about, but whether you reverse park in a public space or drive straight in really matters.

At least where shopping centre car parks are concerned, because there's much more to consider, such as trolleys, prams, kids and other cars.

Ben Ward, the owner of Coastwide Driving School, believes drivers should aim to reverse park always, at least where it makes sense to do so. The reason is twofold, he explained to ABC Radio Brisbane this week, and it comes down to convenience and also safety.

Car park.
Drivers are encouraged to reverse park into spaces in shopping centre car parks. Source: Getty

"The logic behind it is if you're just looking at the one activity of going into the car park, it's quicker to drive straight in. But if you're looking at when you have to exit, it's a lot easier to merge back into the traffic when you're facing forward and people are more likely to let you in," he explained.

As for safety, it's easier to see what's going on around you when you're able to drive straight out. "When you're reversing out of the car park, you've got two-way traffic, people pushing trolleys, kids running around," he said.

Reverse parking 'safer and easier'

Peter Khoury, a spokesperson for NRMA said Mr Ward's comments are "perfectly legitimate" but a lot of it comes down to drivers using "common sense".

"It’s important that you're comfortable and confident doing both — nose in and rear in first," he told Yahoo News Australia. "But it is easier to get out of your parking spot going in rear first, but then make sure you leave enough room to get your groceries in the boot."

Driver Knowledge Test, an online platform offering free practice questions, agrees reverse parking is always safer, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, their website says.

"When reversing out of a car park, you often have to reverse more than halfway out before you can see both ways," it reads. "When driving out forwards, you have to come forward no more than a third of your car length."

Parking debate erupts on social media

The topic divided social media users who expressed their thoughts on the matter. One concluded "reverse parking is a sensible option" but said, "not everyone has the skills to do it easily".

Another said it depends on where you're parking and what errands you need to run.

"Reverse in if you are only going to eat or pay bills," they wrote on Facebook. "But if you are grocery shopping it is near impossible to access the boot or rear of the car to load."

Reverse parking only sign.
Parking in a shopping centre car park comes with extra risks. Source: Getty

A third admitted they "love reverse parking wherever I can" and agreed it's "so much safer" — but this is where common sense comes in, according to Mr Khoury.

If reverse parking makes it harder to access your boot and load up your groceries, obviously driving straight in is the better option, he said. But regardless of what the driver decides to do, he said it's important to be aware of your surroundings.

Tara McCarthy, Deputy Secretary for Safety, Environment and Regulation division at Transport NSW said driving is often a complex task and "each on-road situation is different".

"Staying focused and aware of your surroundings is paramount when you’re behind the wheel," she told Yahoo News. "No matter how you choose to park – reverse, angle, or front in – please be safe and look out for pedestrians, children and other vehicles."

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