AAA warns of holiday parking lot accidents

PARKERSBURG — AAA reminds shoppers to keep a watchful eye out for vehicles and pedestrians this holiday season.

With Thanksgiving marking the official start of the holiday shopping season, the number of shoppers visiting stores will increase dramatically. Officials say vehicle and pedestrian accidents likewise will increase, and while authorities often warn drivers to be watchful while traveling, many collisions and injuries happen closer to home.

“It is easy to become distracted by the hustle and bustle of the season, but traffic safety should be at the top of everybody’s list,” said Theresa Podguski, AAA East Central Director of Legislative Affairs. “According to AAA data, in 2016, 29 percent of all vehicle collisions took place in parking lots.”

Podguski said shoppers can take steps to protect themselves and those around them.

* Drive slowly inside parking lots and garages. Getting that great deal is not worth the risks of speeding around to find a space

* Stay off your mobile device and always watch for pedestrians and other vehicles. Remember, they may not be paying attention to their surroundings.

* Back out slowly from your parking space, especially if you’re near large vehicles. Pause once you can see beyond the vehicles parked next to you; this allows passing drivers to see you.

* If you feel comfortable doing so, back into your parking space. This means you’ll be able to pull straight out of your spot with better visibility.

* Learn to play the outfield. Outlying areas have more spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision. Parking further will help you avoid a possible collision, and you’ll likely face less pressure from impatient shoppers to find the “perfect” spot.

* See and be seen. Use your headlights when scouring parking garages for spaces- even in the daytime. The light will let other cars see you coming around turns and can make fitting into that tight parking space a little easier.

* Don’t trap yourself. Avoid parking between a pair of tall SUVs or minivans where it might be hard for you to back out of the space. If you can’t see well enough to back out safely, get help from one of your passengers.

* Keep an eye out for pedestrians and small children. Kids can be hard to see in busy parking lots and often make quick, unpredictable movements. When walking to and from the car, hold their hands to keep them safe in traffic.

* Always wear your seatbelt. Even at a low speed, injuries can occur. Make sure all passengers are strapped in while the car is moving.

Podguski said while parking lot collisions may occur at slow speeds, even a crash wherein nobody is injured can put a damper on the holiday spirit and cost drivers thousands of dollars in repairs.

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