With the Christmas shopping season in full swing, AAA East Central offers safety tips for crowded, busy parking lots.
"People know to be concerned about safety on highways and neighborhood streets, but they forget to be on alert in parking lots," said J.J. Miller, AAA safety advisor. "Crashes happen frequently in parking lots and have the potential to be quite dangerous, particularly for pedestrians."
AAA offers the following tips to help motorists navigate the parking lot and make better, safer decisions to protect their cars and themselves:
Park at the side entrance. 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.
Walk off the holiday cookies. Outlying areas have more spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision. Plus, it doesn't hurt 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 can mean a dinged door or difficulty pulling in and out.
Be visible. Use headlights when scouring parking garages for spaces - even in the daytime. The light will let other motorist see cars 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 reduce your crash risk.
Don't pull in a tight spot. Avoid parking between a pair of tall SUVs or minivans where it might be hard to back out of the space. If a motorist can't see well enough to back out safely, get help from a passenger.
Avoid using reverse. If possible, avoid backing out of a space 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.
Don't cut across the lot. Watch for cars cutting diagonally across lots and do not follow their example. Drive slowly and use the turn signal.
Use the entire space. Be sure to pull a car all the way into a parking space to avoid having the rear end clipped by passing cars.
Buckle up. Even a low-speed collision can result in injuries. Make sure everyone is strapped in a seat belt or child seat while the car is in motion, even if it's just a short trip to another part of the parking lot.
Don't let a 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 packages.
"Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings," said Miller. "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."
AAA East Central is a not-for-profit organization with 82 local offices in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and New York, servicing 2.7 million members.