How to avoid a parking lot meltdown this holiday season

Did you know that 49% of people said they would take photos or watch videos while driving through a parking lot, according to a National Safety Council survey?

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), more than 50,000 crashes occur in parking lots and parking garages each year, causing more than 500 deaths and upwards of 60,000 injuries.

Ah, the holiday season: Full hearts, full stockings… and even fuller parking lots.

During the peak of holiday shopping, safely finding a place to park your car can feel more like a nerve-racking video game than real life. Pedestrians hope to navigate through an impromptu game of Frogger while you dodge obstacles like Mario in a kart race.

Pop-culture references aside, your car (and unfortunately, your body) is in very real danger of incurring scrapes, dings and cringe-worthy crunches. The chaos of distracted drivers circling the lot in search of the perfect spot, drivers backing out and hectic shoppers on foot create the perfect recipe for disaster. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), more than 50,000 crashes occur in parking lots and parking garages each year, causing more than 500 deaths and upwards of 60,000 injuries.

Take precautions to protect yourself and your car from a parking lot faux paus this season.

-Put the phone down! A recent survey by the NSC found some alarming confessions. Two-thirds of respondents admitting to making phone calls while navigating a parking lot, 56% admitted to texting, and – even more disturbingly – almost 50% said they would send/receive emails, take photos, video chat and surf the internet. Parking lots are full of enough distractions as it is. Talking on the phone or texting unnecessarily increases the risk of a parking lot accident.

-Take your time to back into parking spots so you can pull out safely later.

-Do not race for an open spot! A car – or even worse, a pedestrian – could pop into the road at any moment.

-Drive defensively. Pay attention for those who are not.

-Patronize walkable shopping centers, where you can park your car and visit multiple stores in one stop.

In addition to increased risk of accidents, you’re also more likely to be a victim of theft during the holidays. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), shopping this season is expected to trump the 10-year average. American consumers plan to spend more than $900 each during the holiday shopping season this year, according to an NRF survey. That’s a lot of loot – and holiday scammers are well aware.

The NRF estimates that 80 percent of shopping center crimes occur in parking facilities. Even more disturbing is that up to half of those incidents may involve violence.

There are several precautions you can take to minimize your risk of theft and/or bodily injury.

-Choose a parking space carefully. Park in a well-lit, populous spot and avoid areas close to bushes, trees, walls or any other object that could provide cover for criminals.

-Walk briskly between the store and parking spot. Thieves often target those fumbling with bags, scrolling through a smartphone or looking for keys. Make sure to take note of your parking location so as not to wander aimlessly through the lot after making purchases.

-Hide valuables such as accumulated shopping bags, GPS systems, smartphones and even loose change. These items are best left at home or in the trunk. If you’re making multiple stops with a big-ticket item in tow, it might pay off to drop it at home before making extra stops.

-Lock your vehicle immediately upon exiting and entering. Do not roll your window down if someone approaches you. 

>> We want you to be safe out there on the road… but accidents still happen.
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