Practice Parking Lot Safety

Turning off the road and arriving at your destination can be a relief. Once you’re in a parking lot, you’re traveling more slowly, so the logic follows that your risk of an accident goes down. However, being in a parking lot is no reason to let your guard down. In fact, parking lots have a number of hazards you need to be aware of.

A study by the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers Association found that 20 percent of insurance claims were related to accidents in parking lots. In a typical parking lot, you’re facing two major challenges: limited visibility and distraction.

An empty parking lot may have great visibility, but fill the lot with cars and you’ve got a maze to navigate. Not only does a full lot make it tough for cars in the aisles to see hazards, but cars that are trying to enter or exit parking spaces have their outward visibility severely compromised by the cars parked around them.

20 percent of insurance claims were related to accidents in parking lots.

Distraction is another major risk in parking lots. Think of all the things people do right when they get in their cars: adjust the radio station, pull out their cell phones and arrange any items they may be carrying. Because they feel safe in parking lots, people will often do these things while their cars are moving, taking their attention away from their driving. Then there are the pedestrians in the parking lots. They may be talking or texting on phones, focused on walking to wherever they’re going, trying to corral kids or they simply may not be paying attention.

As risky as parking lots are, there are a number of things you can do to try and manage that risk. Drive slowly in parking lot aisles to give yourself extra time to react to changing conditions, like a car backing out of a space or a child running into the aisle from between cars. Adjust your seat, mirrors and radio and make any calls you need to make before you leave your parking space. Don’t engage in distracting behaviors while the car is moving. If you’re considering buying a new car, you may  want to consider cars with features like a rearview camera, park assist system or cross traffic alert system to help you maneuver in tight spaces and alert you to hazards around you car.

If you’re walking in a parking lot, stay to the sides of the aisle and stay alert to cars that may be entering or leaving parking spaces. Don’t talk on the phone or use headphones to listen to music until you’re out of the parking lot, and always hold hands with small children who are with you.

An accident in a parking lot may not have quite the dramatic potential as an accident on the freeway, but it can still be quite serious and even deadly. Even a minor fender bender in a parking lot could prove to be costly in terms of money and aggravation. Staying alert and being aware of the risks that come with driving in parking lots can help keep you safe and lower your chances of having an accident.