Parking lots can be dangerous places. AAA reminds motorists to use caution as they travel about looking for holiday deals. While rushing to store after store this holiday shopping season, safety may not be the first thing on our minds.
“We tend to underestimate the risk of driving through parking lots because everyone’s going so slowly,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “But even fender benders can injure passengers and the damage to vehicles can be surprisingly costly to repair.”
AAA’s tips for playing it safe in parking lots:
Head for the side door. At the mall, everyone wants to park near the stores, especially near the main entrance. But most malls have secondary entrances on the sides, and those entrances usually have less traffic and more convenient spaces.
Learn to play the outfield. Outlying areas have more spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision. Plus, it doesn’t hurt any of us to walk off holiday treats. In some cases, however, those spaces may not be as secure, so be aware of the risks. Outlying spaces are sometimes a foot narrower than their more convenient counterparts, so using these spaces may mean a dinged door or difficulty pulling in and out.
See and be seen. Use your headlights when scouring parking garages for spaces -- even in the daytime. The light will let other cars see you coming around turns and can make fitting into that tight parking space a little easier. Research shows that, even in the daytime, keeping your headlights on reduces your crash risk.
Don’t put yourself in a tight spot. Avoid parking between a pair of tall SUVs or pickups where it might be hard for you to back out of the space. If you can’t see well enough to back out safely, get help from one of your passengers.
Refrain from reverse. If possible, avoid backing out of a space altogether by either backing into it or “pulling through” two spaces that are open nose-to-nose. In some municipalities, however, backing into spaces amid moving traffic is illegal and, by impeding traffic flow, can do more harm than good.
Look out for little ones. Children can be hard to see in busy parking lots and often make quick, unpredictable movements. When walking to and from the car, hold their hands to keep them safe in traffic.
Stay “on track” and alert on foot. Pedestrians should use walkways and crosswalks, if available. If you must walk in the traffic lanes, be alert for subtle cues - such as car exhaust or reverse lights - that signal a car is about to pull out. When behind the wheel, always be on the lookout for pedestrians, especially hard-to-see children.
Don’t let the Grinch steal your gifts. Place packages and shopping bags in the trunk so they are not visible to would-be thieves. It takes a thief just seconds to smash a window and steal your shopping loot.
Buckle Up! Even a low-speed collision can result in injuries. Make sure that everyone is strapped in a seat belt or child car seat while the car is in motion, even if it’s just a short trip to another part of the parking lot.
“Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings,” said Mai. “The holidays are a busy time for everyone, but remember when you’re behind the wheel, your focus should be on driving - whether you’re on the highway or in the parking lot.”