It’s one of those little problems that, in the past, has always been pushed aside because of more pressing matters, but as Seaside Heights officials continue their focus on quality-of-life issues as the borough is redeveloped, a nagging hassle for both motorists and officials has continued on.
Seaside Heights this week introduced an ordinance that would modify its parking regulations to require drivers park “head-on” when pulling into an angled space. While the ordinance, to some, may seem petty, the problems caused by drivers backing into angled spaces are real, officials say.
“It really does cause some issues, because when you’re backing in, it’s easy to hit a car to the side,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz.
It also takes more time for most drivers to line up their car on a reverse-angle to back into a diagonal parking space, causing the roadway to be blocked and traffic to back up while the motorist is negotiating their approach. If the first try isn’t successful, vehicles continue to stack on Seaside Heights’ skinny roadways – especially Ocean Terrace – and can block intersections and interfere with crosswalks. In most cases, horns blare as the entire scenario plays out.
Then, there is the law enforcement response that is required when a driver misjudges the angle and dents another vehicle.
Vaz said drivers sometimes don’t realize the domino effect of what normally begins as a routine parking attempt. For visitors unfamiliar with the parking layout, things can be even more complicated. Anecdotally, he said, the practice does not seem to be particularly common among New Jersey drivers, but back-in parking to angled spaces is apparently more accepted out of state.
While backing into an angled space is not a moving violation, the ordinance aims to deter drivers from backing into the spaces by risking a parking ticket if they leave their car parked facing the wrong direction. Signage will be installed to alert visitors to the policy.
“It happens quite a bit, more than most people think,” Vaz said, referring to accidents caused by motorists misjudging the angles. “I don’t want to use the word overlooked, but perhaps it wasn’t a priority in the past to tackle this.”
In a bit of a twist of irony, after the reconstruction of Route 35 following Superstorm Sandy, the state Department of Transportation proposed mandating vehicles back into angled spaces along the state highway in Lavallette. The back-in mandate was proposed to ostensibly protect bicyclists from being struck by cars backing out of spaces. Local officials, fearing the accidents and backups that would be spurred by such a requirement, heavily pushed back and state officials ultimately dropped the plan.
Seaside Heights’ ordinance would apply to all angled parking spaces in town. Drivers would still be free to back into traditional parking spaces, and the policy would not apply to private parking lots. The ordinance was introduced unanimously at a borough council meeting this week. It will be subject to a public hearing and second vote at the next council meeting before being codified into law.