Crash data backs up new parking rule

1:54:44 PM CDT - Wednesday, April 05, 2006

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

A new parking policy that will allow vehicles to face outward in campus parking spaces is expected to reduce accidents and make it easier for police officers to see if vehicles have WSU parking permits.

Parking lot accidents accounted for 91 percent of the 129 reported accidents at WSU in 2005, up 3 percent from 2004, according to data supplied by WSU Police Chief Paul Dotson. Many of those accidents occurred when vehicles backed out of spots and into other vehicles or non-moving objects, Dotson said.

For decades, WSU has had a policy that ticketed drivers for facing outward in parking spaces.

"I never understood why the university prohibited vehicles from parking facing out of parking spaces, not when I was a student in the '70s and not when I was an instructor in the '90s," said Dotson, a former Wichita police captain. When Dotson took over as WSU police chief, he started checking into why the policy existed.

After finding there was no state law or regulation for such a policy, Dotson told his officers in August to stop ticketing vehicles for that violation. This spring, he presented a recommendation to allow facing outward in parking spaces, along with crash data, to the university's traffic policy advisory committee, which approved the revision.

By reducing the number of vehicles that have to be placed in reverse to leave parking spots, the police expect to see a decrease in crashes caused by drivers backing out of spaces, said Dotson. Having vehicles facing outward will also make it easier to see hangtag permits, said Dotson.

Since the policy is meant to reduce the number of crashes caused by going in reverse, the point of the revision is not to punish those who pull through one open space and into the one in front of it, facing out, said Dotson.

Because public comment is required to change WSU's parking policy to officially permit drivers to face outward in parking spaces, a public comment session has been scheduled for 11:30 a.m.-noon today (April 6), in 212 Rhatigan Student Center.

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