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For the last time: Stop standing in parking spots to save them

It happened again, to me, in Seattle. I was circling the block on Capitol Hill when I finally spied a parking spot on Broadway. With my blinker on, I was ready to back in. But that’s when I saw them — a single person, firmly standing in the parking spot I was clearly aiming for; their hands folded in front of them, doing their best to look ahead and not at me.

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They were saving the parking spot. Despite many viral videos, and blogs on the issue (many lack a conclusion on the matter, though all agree that the person standing in the spot is a total jerk), some people have not received the message.

So let’s get something straight, once and for all — you cannot physically stand in a parking space to save it for a coming car.

Western Washington cops weigh in

Despite what you think about the traffic laws at play — which vary from state-to-state — considering the bigger picture, the laws of physics don’t favor the person going up against a car. But, as it turns out, traffic laws are a bit nuanced.

Take Bellevue for example. According to Sgt. Mike Shovlin, he’s seen instances when spot savers faced off with a parking vehicle. Shovlin says:

I know of no way you could do anything in a parking lot about it because that is private property. In the street, an officer could probably do something because it’s in the roadway and people are not allowed to stand in the roadway. But the chance that an officer would get there in time would be slim.

Having said that, a person is not allowed to just stand in the street. A person who drives in and hits them because they are going to park there is the one who is going to have a problem because you do not get to assault someone with your car over a parking space.

That’s where it gets nuanced. Sure, a person cannot stand in a street parking space to save it. Though a driver cannot really do anything about it — moving your car into the space with the person there is technically assault.

Another Bellevue parking enforcement officer also weighed in on the issue, addressing one instance when a driver hit a person standing in a parking space.

Adding to Sgt. Shovlin’s response, I haven’t seen it in some time. The instances that I recall occurred prior to my employment with the city of Bellevue and on private property.

In those cases, if I recall correctly the drivers involved were arrested for vehicular assault.

Not really sure how smart it is to ‘sacrifice’ one’s body to hold a parking space.

Washington law and saving parking spaces

Renton police point to the Revised Code of Washington — RCW 46.61.570 — which is titled “stopping, standing, or parking prohibited in specific places — reserving portion of highway prohibited.”

The law specifically addresses standing and parking on roads and highways. It states:

It shall be unlawful for any person to reserve or attempt to reserve any portion of a highway for the purpose of stopping, standing, or parking to the exclusion of any other like person, nor shall any person be granted such right.

Of course, some readers are going to linger on that one word — “highway.” To further help, a spokesperson for the Everett Police Department points to RCW 46.61.255 which states “No person shall stand on or in proximity to a street or highway for the purpose of soliciting the watching or guarding of any vehicles while parked or about to be parked on a street or highway.”

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There you have it. The spot saver is technically wrong, and you can point to the RCW to prove it. But at the same time, they’re likely to say “What are you going to do about it?” After all, cops are more inclined to respond to a stabbing or a robbery than your parking spat.

So even if the parking spot skirmishes continue in Washington, we can at least all agree that the one person standing in an open space is in the wrong … and a jerk.

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