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Drivers urged to proceed with caution during busy holiday season
parking lot pic
Parking lot collisions spike on Black Friday and run above normal throughout the holiday shopping season, according to a report from the National Safety Council. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal

As the holiday shopping season jumps into hyper speed this Friday, motorists will need to be particularly mindful as the number of vehicles on the roads increases, but that same mindfulness doesn’t end at the shopping center, it should also include the parking lot.

Auto insurers report the number of claims from parking lot collisions spike on Black Friday and run above normal throughout the holiday shopping season, according to a report from the National Safety Council.

While many of the collisions are nothing more than fender benders, some have deadly consequences. The NSC reported more than 50,000 crashes occur in parking lots and garage structures annually, resulting in 500 or more deaths and more than 60,000 injuries.

Pedestrians are the most vulnerable in parking lot collisions. Drivers can be more focused on finding a coveted spot, or trying to make their way out of the parking lot, and not see a person walking to or from a vehicle. Additionally, the relatively slower speeds in parking lots may be giving drivers a false sense of security.

In a National Safety Council public opinion poll, 66 percent of drivers nationwide said they would make phone calls while driving through parking lots. Respondents also said they would: Program GPS systems (63 percent); text (56 percent); use social media (52 percent); send or receive emails (50 percent); and take photos or watch videos (49 percent).

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

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.

The most common type of collision in a parking lot is when a vehicle is backing out of a space and strikes another vehicle that is either moving or parked, or more seriously, strikes a pedestrian. An NSC analysis of government data indicates more than one-third of pedestrian deaths in parking lots result from backup incidents.

Just like the roads, parking lots also have right of ways, which are dependent on the lane being used. Parking lots typically have two types of lanes. There are thoroughfare lanes, which are the lanes that pass by the stores and exit onto a street. Then there are feeder lanes, which are typically narrower and are where most of the parking spaces are located.

Those driving in the thoroughfares have the right of way over those motorists trying to enter from a feeder lane.

A driver pulling out of a parking space has to yield to the motorist driving through the feeder lane.

Additionally, just like on the roads, pedestrians always have the right of way in parking lots, and traffic signs are enforceable. Failure to obey a posted stop or yield sign in a parking lot could leave a driver at fault should a collision occur.

The National Safety Council encourages drivers to follow these safety tips when driving in parking lots:

·         - 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