Parking lots not a haven for scofflaws

Are there any laws pertaining to parking in public lots such as shopping centers in Oregon? When I lived in California, I know it was illegal to park "head out." In Arizona, the police do not respond to accidents that occur in a center's parking lot. Here in Medford, I have noticed many people park head-out and cut across the parking lot lanes. Excluding the handicapped-spaces laws, are there any governing laws or is it simply a matter of courtesy?

— Virginia Miller

Yes, Virginia, there are laws pertaining to parking lots, known for citation purposes as "premises open to the public." But they are few in number. In fact, of all the laws on the books, there are only about 20 laws enforceable in parking lots.

They include all the major traffic crimes — driving under the influence of intoxicants, hit and run, driving while suspended, reckless driving and eluding — as well as driving without a license, driving uninsured, careless driving, speed racing, disabled parking, unreasonable sound amplification and a handful of violations regarding bicyclists, scooters and all-terrain vehicles.

Notice that stop-sign violations are not enforceable in parking lots, so you may be tempted to crawl right through those signs. But think twice — you could be cited for careless driving.

Police will respond to crashes in parking lots that involve impairment or injury or one of the other major crimes being violated. But police do not have to respond to fender-benders. In those cases, the drivers must exchange required information, fill out crash forms if needed, and contact their insurance companies. They do not have to have a police officer present.

As far as "head-out" parking, there are no laws governing this in parking lots. I've seen on-street parking signs stating "head-in" parking only, so some areas might have higher restrictions. But in general, head-out parking is not prohibited.

Neither is cutting across the parking lot, but just like the stop sign issue, you'd better exercise caution, otherwise you might be subject to a careless-driving citation.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail

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