Safe Driving in Parking Lots

safe driving in parking lotsAvoid accidents and other hazards this holiday season


Holiday shopping season is here. If you’re like most people, you’ll make more trips to the malls in the next 6 weeks than you typically make in 6 months. Parking lots are packed, nerves are frayed, and if you live in a cold climate, you may also have snow and ice to deal with. It all leads to an increased chance of being in a parking lot car crash.

According to the National Safety Council, more than 50,000 accidents occur in parking lots and garage structures each year. Auto insurers report higher than average numbers throughout the holiday season, with Black Friday winning the prize for the most claims. The real total is probably even higher, as minor damages are not always filed.

The good news is that slow speeds generally keep a parking lot accident from being too severe. But even a small claim can cause your insurance premiums to increase. And who wants to deal with car repairs during this busy time of year?


Steer Clear of Accidents

Most people, when asked, will say they are good drivers. But being distracted, impatient, and overly tired–many of us are all three this time of year–can impair even the most cautious driver. Keep these things in mind as you head out to do your holiday shopping:

When pulling into a parking lot:

  • Drive only in designated lanes. Resist cutting though to save time, and watch for other vehicles that may be driving diagonally.
  • Drive slowly and use your turn signals, as you would on the street.
  • Be courteous of other drivers. Give people room when they are backing out of a parking space.
  • In garages, realize that many turns are blind. Stay in your lane, go slow, and give large vehicles extra room.
  • Obey stop signs, road markings and all posted traffic rules, just as when you’re on a street.
  • Stay focused. Stay off your phone and avoid doing anything that will divert your attention.

When parking:

  • Center you car between the lines, so other vehicles are less likely to ding you when opening their doors.
  • Avoid parking in spaces that will be difficult to maneuver out of.
  • If you are pulling through (so that you can drive out going forward) check to make sure you are properly in your space.
  • After dark, or if it darkness will fall while you’re shopping, try to park close to lights. Not only will that help you see other vehicles, but it keeps you safe, as well.
  • Always roll up windows, close your sunroof, and lock your car doors.

When leaving your space:

  • Look behind you. Even if you have a back-up camera, glance over your shoulders in both directions before backing up.
  • Go as slowly as possible. Avoid using your accelerator, especially if you are between larger vehicles and your view is obstructed.
  • If you’re in a garage or pay lot, have tickets and money out before you leave your space (make sure to lock your car doors first.)


Crime and other punishments

Crashes aren’t the only parking lot hazard that increases during the holidays. Car break-ins and parking lot thefts also increase this time of year. Lower your chances of being a victim:

  1. Avoid parking in dark and/or secluded areas.
  2. Do not leave shopping bags or other valuables in your car. If you are making multiple stops, lock items in your trunk or hide them before departing for you next destination. Never put bags in your car if you are leaving it in the same spot. Many thieves watch for this opportunity and will pounce once you’re out of sight.
  3. Before leaving the shops, get your keys out. Keep shopping bags and purses close to your body. Walk with purpose and pay attention to your surroundings. If you see someone suspicious or feel unsafe, return to the store and ask an employee or security guard to walk you to your car.
  4. Lock your doors as soon as you are in your vehicle.


Whether in parking lots or on the streets, you should always be focused and alert when driving. But when you’re in crowded and stressful situations, it’s especially crucial for your personal safety and for those around you. For more safe driving tips,  visit the General Southwest blog library or contact your GSW advisor.


Article by Lisa Binsfeld


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