Next time you’re in a parking lot, look around. Do most people park by backing in to a spot, or do they just drive straight in? According to one study, the back-in behavior indicates a person’s ability to delay gratification, and it can even predict a country’s economic growth.

But reverse parking in a space has another positive: It’s safer. When you back in, you’re backing into a designated empty space. Compare that to backing out of a parking space and straight into a busy parking lot with oncoming cars.

However, most people—76 percent—prefer to pull forward into a spot, according to AAA research. On average, 50,000 car crashes happen in a parking lot, according to The National Safety Council. But an about-face can help you stay safe when you park.

Ready to start parking more safely? Here are three steps toward being the safest parker in the lot. Note that it’s illegal in some places to back into certain parking spaces—so research your local laws.

Step one: Turn on your signal and pull your car halfway past the open space

Let other drivers know where you’re headed by using your turn signal. Then pull your vehicle about halfway past the spot where you plan to park. If you’re not comfortable with reverse parking, choose a space without cars on either side.

Step two: Check your backup cameras and mirrors

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Parking lots can be a minefield of mobile device distractions, from pedestrians checking their phones to the 66 percent of drivers who make phone calls in a parking lot, according to the National Safety Council. So it’s important to check the area for pedestrians and moving vehicles before putting your car into reverse.

Backup cameras have helped improve visibility when backing into a parking space, but you shouldn’t depend too heavily on any one tool. Utilize a combination of mirrors, backup cameras and simply looking around the vehicle to best stay aware of your surroundings when reverse parking.

Step three: Back slowly into your spot

It sounds like common sense, but it’s always good to go slow and stay safe. Continue to pay attention to your surroundings, looking for pedestrians or other vehicles that may have approached. If your car isn’t quite straight in the spot, pull forward and adjust as necessary.

Driving Skills Need a Tune-Up?

AAA’s online driving safety course can help you better understand risk-reducing driving techniques.

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