30th Jul, 2019 Read time 17 minutes

Behaviour characteristics associated with a visitor’s decision to comply/not comply with a client’s reverse parking policy

The following review has been provided by Gerry Mulholland. In this insight, Gerry looks at the topic of driver safety and in particular reverse parking policies and those who do or do not comply with them.

This review will look at the factors that would influence a visitor to comply or not comply with a Client’s reverse parking policy when the visitor is parking their vehicle in a designated visitor’s parking space. By using The Transtheoretical Model (DiClemente, 1998) as a basis for this paper it will review the different stages of the model and the impact that they may/will have on the visitor’s parking.

There are many Organisations that are now instigating a Reversing Parking Policy for their staff and visitors. Whilst the staff will have already moved through the stages of the Transtheoretical Model in order to meet this Policy requirement, visitors are likely to have infrequent attendance to a Client’s offices, it can be assumed therefore they may not be aware of the Policy and the requirement that a Client places upon them to meet this standard.

A systematic approach to each of the sections within The Transtheoretical Model will be undertaken highlighting the behaviours that a visitor will be exposed to as they visit a car park where an Organisation has a reversing policy for parking, taken from the visitor’s perspective but also for the action and maintenance interventions what an Organisation can do to ensure complete compliance with the Policy.

Organisations will have introduced the reverse parking policy for a number of reasons that will include; ease of traffic flow at the end of a day or shift when people are leaving, as a result of an incident which may have resulted in injury or material damage to vehicles.

The Health and Safety Executive have produced statistics and guidance with regard to the reversing of vehicles within the workplace (HSE statistics, 2014) where nearly a quarter of all deaths involving vehicles at work occur during reversing. Whilst this statistic includes all types of vehicles from all industries, it does not give a breakdown of the number of incidents that would be fatal incidents involving cars in an Organisation’s car park which could be assumed to be low given the lack of research and guidance on the subject. However, these incidents as with the others will cause damage to vehicles, equipment and the fabric of the premises itself with the cost associated with each of these.

One such incident that resulted in a fatality to a matchday Steward at Coventry City Football Club occurred on October 2009 when, whilst acting as the signaller, Ron Reeve was crushed against a wall by the Arsenal Football Team’s coach as it reversed into Coventry City’s Highfield Road football stadium (News Archive, 2009).

All Organisations with premises will attract visitors. This will include a wide range of services and potential sales lead with many of them arriving and departing within a vehicle. It is not intended in this paper to refer to delivery drivers in vans of various sizes but to use The Transtheoretical Model to focus on the visiting car driver. However further research could be considered for this population and in particular the parcel delivery driver – whose behaviour will be influenced by the number of parcels they need to deliver during their working period.


By looking at each element of The Transtheoretical Model in the context of a visitor complying (or not) with a particular Client’s requirement for reverse parking, will allow further consideration of the steps that would need to be considered in order to influence and motivate change regarding the particular behaviour of not complying with the reverse parking policy. An internet-based questionnaire in Belgium and the Netherlands looked at the habitual parking behaviours of car drivers and found that car drivers regularly/often choose the same car parking facility when visiting a central business area (van de Waerden, 2015). Although research is limited in the area of reverse parking, similarities to this habitual study could be considered.

Figure 1 – The Transtheoretical Model


Pre-contemplation – at this stage individuals are not seriously considering behaviour change for the foreseeable future (e.g. six months). Within this pre-contemplation phase, they may be unaware of any need to change or unwilling to think about change, this can also lead to them being defensive and/or resistant to pressures to change or lack of confidence in their ability to change. The context here for a visitor looking to park their car in a Client organisations car park will be influenced by them not being aware of this policy, as well as their previous experiences with regard to parking and the habits and their everyday behaviour when parking their vehicle. They may have some knowledge of the risk involved in parking a vehicle but have not thought that their behaviour would need to change as the risk is not significant enough to warrant that change.

There are many cases where, rather than considering behaviour change regarding reverse parking, individuals ignore the local parking requirements and have a disregard to comply with the law. John Terry, the Chelsea FC Captain has been fined for parking in a Disabled bay in Esher, Surrey with the fine for such a parking offence likely to impact on his bank balance (News archive, 2008).

Contemplation – within the contemplation stage individuals have acknowledged that there is a problem, and they are in a position where they are seriously considering behaviour change within the next six months or so but are not yet committed to change that behaviour. Rather than being dismissive about the need to change as they would be in the pre-contemplation stage, they are more likely to take on board feedback and any information relating to the prospect of behaviour change but could remain in this stage for a number of years. When they are parking their car in the example for this paper, however, the contemplation stage will be shortened dramatically to seconds in most cases as they have the choice to reverse into a parking space or not. It is possible that this is the only Organisation that they would visit during that day, week or month that has such a requirement, and therefore contemplation is very much based on the need to make a decision in a very short period of time. Contemplation stage here will also include the visitor’s knowledge of the reversing parking policy either because they have visited the premises before or they have been informed of the requirement by the Organisation before they visit.

Preparation – this is the stage where people are about to take action or are strongly considering taking action, within a time frame of approximately one month. Reversing into a car parking space at a Client’s premises to comply with the policy, they will need to have been made aware of the requirement either prior to visiting the facility.  They will have seen the signage relating to the requirement, been informed by a member of the Organisation’s team such as the person they are visiting, the security guard or the receptionist and it is then they will be in a position to prepare to comply with the requirement. It is also possible that through an individual’s awareness of all other cars being reverse parked, that this may influence their decision to follow suit as human memory is susceptible to social influences. Research by (Edelson, 2011) found that the neuronal representation of memory had been modified by social influences.

The timescales that may apply in general to this phase when reverse parking is similar to the contemplation stage, greatly reduced due to the circumstances of initiating the behaviour change.

Action – is the stage of The Transtheoretical Model where people have made a significant effort to change the behaviour. It is at this stage that the behaviour change is demonstrated and will last for around a six month period. As with the other stages of the model in this example, the action is for a very short and defined period when they are making the behavioural choice of how to park and either parking in reverse, or choosing not to. There are a number of influencing factors at this stage that a visitor may, or may not consider in a split second and these include their confidence to reverse into a parking space, as well as being familiar with the vehicle size and handling characteristics, the general availability of sufficient space, time to reverse before a defined scheduled meeting, as well as wanting to be seen to be doing the right thing on a Client’s premises and not wanting to attract unfavourable attention to their vehicle’s parking.

Maintenance – where an element of behavioural change has been sustained for a period of time, and where the positive reinforcement of the behaviour is helping to prevent a relapse. There are two distinct areas of consideration;

  1. The visitor would need to maintain the correct parking behaviour when visiting this Client, which would require them to make a conscious decision to take action upon their return or alternatively when they park in other car parks, whether at work or during social visits.
  2. How the Client can maintain the right standards through a number of measures highlighted below to gain both short-term and long term behavioural improvements.

There are two distinct areas when an improvement in the required behaviour by an individual visitor can be addressed for longer-term success within the Action and Maintenance stages of The Transtheoretical Model. These are at an individual level which will be based around compliance with the required policy for reverse parking when visiting an Organisation that requires them to park in a particular manner. However, sustained behaviour change as highlighted in the action stage could very quickly revert back to either a contemplation stage or even pre-contemplation stage if there are no other reinforces to maintain the behaviour change. This would include visiting other premises, parking at their home, parking in a shopping centre and other aspects of their everyday life where without the maintenance stage, the ability to sustain the behaviour change to reverse park could easily be lost. This can be compared to an employee, who has a greater chance of maintaining the sustained behaviour change, as they are required to comply with the reverse parking policy on a daily basis. Because the action is required daily by an employee it moves them towards a more stable and healthy behaviour whilst parking at work.

Short-term the influencing factors to change an individual’s behaviours are relatively inexpensive for the benefits they can bring with simple measures that will include;

  • Signage such as in Figure 2 detailing the requirement. In Japan signage was introduced to improve the behaviour of cyclists at a University campus. In four of the five areas, following the introduction of the signage, there was a marked improvement in the behaviours and in the other, a smaller improvement. (Okinaka, 2010)

Figure 2 Example of a Reverse Parking sign

  • Road marking highlighting the need to reverse park. Again in Japan, line marking was used which also found that there was a reduction in the number of illegally parked bicycles and motorbikes demonstrating that this low-cost measure can have a high impact on deterring illegal parking (Baba, 2001)
  • Verbal Instructions when entering the car-park either from a security guard, visitor’s host, or receptionist.
  • Including the requirement on any confirmation of the appointment either verbal or in writing such as a confirmation e-mail.
  • Security patrols/parking attendants to help guide vehicles into the correct parking position should the budgetary conditions allow. In order to get a short-term improvement, greater compliance can be achieved by the use of parking attendants. Research in Greece found that there was an improvement in parking behaviours by drivers by the use of controlled parking systems in a number of Greek cities. (Spiliopoulou, 2012). Similarly in China during 2006, a study was undertaken into the changes relating to on-street parking when a parking attendant system was introduced demonstrating an improvement in parking behaviour (Dogaki, 2006).
  • Reverse parking sensors are becoming more commonplace as a standard feature on new vehicles, thus helping individuals to reverse park and research has shown that they do benefit drivers during reversing manoeuvres. As technology in manufacturing cars, today develops, parking aids are becoming more popular and are being offered as a standard feature in many cars now which help to park (Jewett, 2003).

There are other factors that might influence the behaviour of a visitor reverse parking. This includes the physical capability to manoeuvre and park. Research undertaken in France to identify the difficulties older drivers experienced during parking, highlighted they had particular difficulties during back parallel parking manoeuvres. (Douissembekov, 2014) There has also been research undertaken around gender, finding that men park more accurately and especially faster than women (Wolf, 2010).

The second element where improvement can be made to influence the behaviour of visitors to park in the required manner is for the Organisation to lead the required behavioural change. This can be done in conjunction with the short-term measure highlighted above to influence the behaviour of the visitor. The longer-term measures will require more detailed planning and are likely to require capital expenditure relative to the work required around improvements. Some of the longer-term solutions are listed below, again depending on available space, ownership of the area (owning the car park as opposed to leasing the land) and a willingness to invest in the measures to aid reverse parking.

  • By removing the requirement to reverse, this could have an impact of nearly 25% of all vehicle incidents (HSE statistics 2014). If this is not possible there is an opportunity through changing and improving the layout of the parking areas to reduce the need to reverse.
  • Green Travel Policies can play a part in influencing behaviours, as can refusing to accommodate visitor parking on site. This step may be unpopular with visitors looking to park but would remove the need to influence the behaviour regarding reverse parking.
  • By introducing either a Gatehouse or manned barrier at the entrance; not only would this give the opportunity to speak to individuals and influence their behaviour when it comes to parking, but may also reduce the numbers of vehicles in a confined area at any one time, therefore, reducing the potential for collisions and incidents.
  • Modifying or changing the layout of the car parking area may also include wider parking bays to make reversing easier. However with parking at a premium, reducing the numbers of available space may not prove to be popular.
  • By separating people from moving and reversing vehicles through the design of pedestrian walkways will also have a positive impact on the risk of collisions and potential accidents.

Relapse – retuning to an action or maintenance stage for the visitor when visiting this and other Clients, this can also tie in to how the Client ensures that this and other visitors comply with the required standards. A relapse could be dictated by the frequency of the visits and also the contemplation to take the appropriate action on a return visit when considering the reverse parking policy for a returning visitor.

Measuring the success of the interventions both short-term and long term is simply reviewing the compliance with the requirement to reverse park. This can be done from observations and audits of the car park on a daily basis with reminders left on vehicle windscreens, such as – “Please remember to reverse park”, verbal notifications to individuals and continuing the actions covered above to ensure compliance with the reverse parking policy. Figure 3 below shows the ease to monitor compliance and single out those vehicles that have not complied with the required standard.

Figure 3 Showing 100% compliance with Reverse Parking Policy

There is an immediate need for an individual when parking a vehicle at a car-park where there is a reversing policy, to make a conscious decision with regard to their behaviour to either comply or not comply. The Transtheoretical Model has been used in numerous studies to describe the stages of individual’s progress through behavioural change. There is a variety of research material relating to health and well-being and the timescales that are used with the model and lend themselves to the change process for health and well-being considerations where months are used as units of time.

Although the model has been used here to describe the stages a visitor will go through when parking their vehicle, the motivation and readiness to change are dramatically shortened with regard to the time periods due to the need to quickly respond to the parking requirement. Other behavioural models could have also been used here to describe the influences of behaviour. These could include, amongst others, The Theory of Planned Behaviour, (Ajzan, 1991), The Risk as Feelings Theory (Loewenstein, 2001) and The COM-B System (Michie, 2011).

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