Distraction Can Often Cause Parking Lot Injuries

Two Shoppers with Bags Navigate a Busy Parking LotParking lots are riskier than you think. Tens of thousands of crashes occur in parking lots and garage structures annually, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.

They become even more dangerous around the holidays. 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.

So Many Distractions

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.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Join us in observing Distracted Driving Awareness Month and share the message, "When you're behind the wheel, your only job is to drive."

Take the safe-driving pledge. Get free access to posters, a social media kit, a policy template for your workplace and more. NSC members also get access to webinars, a toolkit on pedestrian safety and other member exclusives.

Stay Alert

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

Tapping into Technology

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, but that view may not be clear if the camera lens becomes obstructed. Three safety reminders:

● Conduct a 360-degree walk-around before backing, keeping an eye out for low-lying objects
● Don't rely 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.

Other Parking Lot Pitfalls

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 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 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.

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