Is Parallel Parking Prohibitted in New York?!

February 2, 2009

Is parallel parking prohibited in the State of New York? Based on the relevant provisions in New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (“VTL”), I can’t see how it is permitted. So I’m hoping for some help out there. Here are some of the relevant statutes:
VTL § 1202
 
(a) Except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, or when in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or official traffic-control device, no person shall:

1. Stop, stand or park a vehicle:

a. On the roadway side of any vehicle stopped, standing or parked at the edge or curb of a street

And here is the relevant statutory definition of “stopping:”
VTL § 147
 
Stop or stopping

When prohibited means any halting even momentarily of a vehicle, whether occupied or not, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a police officer or traffic-control sign or signal.

Practically speaking, it is impossible to parallel park without momentarily stopping one’s car before backing it into a parallel parking space. Although facially, it sounds like the VTL is prohibiting even momentarily stopping the car, such a result would be absurd. It would mean that, practically speaking, parallel parking would always be prohibited since it almost always involves stopping one’s car for a moment in the traffic lane before backing into a parking spot. The absurdity of such a result argues that this was not prohibited by the statute to begin with. 

Furthermore, New York State’s driving manual recommends parallel parking by stopping in the traffic lane and backing into the open parking spot, implying that such a method of parking is not prohibited by the VTL. Here’s that section of the DMV driving manual:

HOW TO PARK
  1. Parallel parking step 1Select a space that is large enough for your vehicle on your side of the road. Check your mirrors before stopping, and signal to alert other drivers. Pull up alongside the vehicle in front of the space, leaving about two feet between the other vehicle and yours.
  2. Parallel parking step 2Look behind you over both shoulders to make sure you will not interfere with pedestrians or oncoming traffic. Back up slowly, and begin to turn your steering wheel all the way toward the near curb. Look through the rear window, not the rearview mirrors, as you back up. Check to the side and front occasionally to make sure you are clearing the vehicle ahead…

As you can see by the DMV directions and diagrams, it is definitely advocating the  “momentarily [halting] of a vehicle” in the traffic lane in order to parallel park, which I see as further indication that it isn’t prohibitted.

I have to say that I don’t think parallel parking would qualify in the “when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic ” statutory exception because although stopping is necessary for the purposes of the act of parallel parking itself, it does not seem necessary to “avoid conflict with other traffic.”

I cannot find any specific provision in the VTL or in the cases that specifically excludes the “stopping” necessary in the process of parallel parking from the prohibition, although it is clearly ridiculous to suggest that parallel parking is functionally illegal.

Can anyone out there help me out with any statutory clincher that shows where my mistake is? Why is parallel parking legal?

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2 Responses to “Is Parallel Parking Prohibitted in New York?!”


  1. Interesting from an academic point of view but, as you write, it’s absurd to think otherwise especially when the DMV manual endorses parallel parking. Further, because officer’s do not issue tickets for this “infraction”. Perhaps, the statutory clincher that youare looking for is contained in VTL 1201 which states except “when in compliance with law” motorists shall not stop. Arguably, the stopping to parallel park is in compliance with law and there for statutorily authorized.

    Matthew Weiss, Esq.
    Author of Confessions Of A Traffic Lawyer
    http://www.888redlight.wordpress.com


  2. Traffic Lawyer,

    Actually, the impetus for me writing this post was the fact that a friend of mine actually did get a ticket last week for doing exactly this. He’d stopped momentarily before backing up, and an officer stopped right behind him, preventing him from backing up into the parking spot, and issued him the ticket for double parking right then. I researched the statute to help him out.

    There’s one thing lacking though in using “when in compliance with the law” alone. You have to cite some other law that one would be “in compliance with” in order to invoke that provision.

    I know I’m wrong but I’m just looking for that smoking gun statutory provision or case that makes a “in the process of parallel parking” exception to the prohibition on “stopping” in a traffic lane, beside a car parked on a curb.

    Thanks for looking into it!


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