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Distractions can make parking lots a dangerous place
parking lot
Large parking lots, such as those found at shopping malls during the holiday season, are considered most vulnerable to crime, according to the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center. - photo by Photo Contributed

The hope and expectation is that when drivers enter the road they are paying attention and practicing good driving habits. But what about in parking lots?

According to the National Safety Council, parking lots are far riskier than people realize and are the sites of tens of thousands of crashes occur in parking lots and garage structures annually, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. And, around the holidays, parking lots become even more dangerous.

Auto insurers report the number of claims spike on Black Friday and run above normal throughout the holiday shopping season. The number of incidents is probably higher than insurance claims indicate, as many fender-benders go unreported.

“Most people don’t know this but a majority of collisions occur when motorists are backing, turning or parking,” said Turlock Police Sgt. Michael Parmley. “For this reason motorists should be especially mindful while driving in parking lots.”

In an NSC public opinion poll, 66% of drivers nationwide said they would make phone calls while driving through parking lots. Respondents also said they would:

·         Program GPS systems (63%)

·         Text (56%)

·         Use social media (52%)

·         Send or receive emails (50%)

·         Take photos or watch videos (49%)

NSC found teens (59%) were more likely to engage in personal grooming than adults (53%) while driving in parking lots, but less likely to be on the phone (60% vs. 66%).

During the hectic holiday season, drivers and pedestrians also are likely to be distracted by extensive to-do lists and are hurriedly trying to get from one place to another.

Safety isn't guaranteed just by driving slowly in parking lots. Following are some safety tips for drivers:

·         Stay in lanes and avoid cutting across lots

·         Drive slowly and use directional signals

·         Anticipate the actions of other drivers

·         Obey stop signs and no-parking signs

·         When backing out, be mindful of vehicles and pedestrians

·         Watch for small children and parents with baby strollers

NSC analysis of government data indicates that 9% of pedestrian deaths in parking lots result from backup incidents. Many vehicles today are equipped with backup cameras, which provide a wide view behind a vehicle operating in reverse, but that view may not be clear if the camera lens becomes obstructed.

Three safety reminders:

·         It's best to conduct a quick, 360-degree walk-around before backing, keeping an eye out for low-lying objects

·         Don't rely completely on technology; look over your shoulder and use your mirrors as you back up

·         When parking, pull through on arrival whenever possible and if it works with the flow of traffic

Monitoring systems can alert drivers of vehicles in blind spots. Typically, drivers are warned of another vehicle's presence via symbol, sound or vibration. These systems may not detect motorcycles, smaller objects or people, however.

Inadequate pavement striping, potholes or cracks, lack of signage, debris, poor lighting, puddles, and snow and ice also can lead to pedestrian injuries. Slips, trips and falls are common in parking lots, and falls in general are the leading cause of death for older adults.

Choosing the right parking spot can go a long way toward deterring theft and crime. Consumer Reports provides some simple safety rules:

·         Pick spots that are well-lit and close to stores where you will be shopping

·         Lock your doors

·         Store purchases in places that are out of sight (in the trunk or tucked under dark-colored blankets)

Large parking lots, such as those found at shopping malls, are considered most vulnerable to crime, according to the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center. One way for consumers to steer clear of trouble is to pick a lot where pedestrian traffic is restricted and video surveillance equipment is used to monitor the facility.