Holiday season a dangerous time for parking lots

November 30, 2013

Black Friday may be behind us, but that doesn’t mean holiday shopping has ended. There’s still more than three weeks left until December 25, leaving gift-buyers ample time to wrap presents, drivers to circle for open spots at the mall, and pedestrians to be struck by motorists at crowded, busy parking lots.

That’s right: Shopping can be dangerous, and not just for the wallet. According to Montgomery County police chief Thomas Manger in Maryland, the combination of increased pedestrians and just as many cars during the holiday season creates an annual “toxic mix” that’s highly potent for accidents.

New Jersey mall parking lot

Malls like this one are dangerous places during the holiday season. From LancerE.

Indeed, parking lots of the large, indoor malls that typify suburban shopping are as expansive as they are because they were designed to accommodate consumers during peak times, exemplified by holiday shopping at the end of the year.

“It can get very, very bad,” said one shopper at Rockville Town Center in Maryland. “People are trying to get to the closest parking space with a hundred bags, and they’re tramping through the parking lot not even looking at where they’re going.”

With the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reporting that 20 percent of all claims for car damage involve parking lot collisions, staying safe in such environments is paramount during the holidays.

“Always a potential for conflict,” said William Van Tassel, describing the necessary interactions between pedestrians and drivers at parking lots.

Tassel, who manages driver-training programs at AAA National, continued: “Things are very tightly positioned there. Plus, your vision is limited, so you can’t see the other cars. And of course there are always huge numbers of pedestrians, which you would not normally find in another situation out on the roadway.”

parking lot with snowdrift

Weather can be as much of a threat as other shoppers. From GWDexter.

He recommends the following precautions:

  • Park some distance from other vehicles whenever possible – it reduces the number of cars and pedestrians that drivers have to interact with.
  • Parking with the front of your vehicle facing out. Police and those in public safety, said Manger, “because it’s so much safer.”

Tassel concedes that not everyone will feel as comfortable backing into a space and that “there are some parking lots that are so busy or so narrow that it’s tough to do.”

Should an accident occur, however, Brian S. Goodman of Pessin Katz Law in Towson, MD, suggests that reporting it quickly will allow your claim to be handled in a more timely manner during the busy holiday weeks. Also, “you have an obligation to report these things,” he said. “You don’t want to give the insurance company a reason to deny you coverage in the future.”

He points out that the danger during the holidays isn’t always due to frenetic shopping. Weather also plays a part. “There are also more slip-and-falls in parking lots because of the snow and ice. Consumers need to be aware that if they sustain an injury from falling in the parking lot of a business, such as a mall or a post office, they need to report this to the business’s manager and also to their insurance companies in order to get proper coverage.”

Category: News

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