Black Friday is just around the corner, which means people are busily preparing their cash and credit cards for some bargain hunting. This spending bonanza not only leads to heaps of shopping bags, but also a spike in vehicle mishaps. All the money you could save on deals could go to insurance and damage fees instead if you get yourself into an accident in the mall’s jam-packed parking lot.
Photo by Dean Hochman via Flickr
The staple shopping day in the American Thanksgiving weekend has made its way to our side of the border in recent years, with more Canadian retailers and consumers participating. Research found that 22% of Canadians planned to shop on Black Friday last year, slightly lagging behind the 39% of our American neighbours who wanted to partake.
People even consider taking a day off just to participate in the North American shopping event. Last year, 1.2 million Canadians planned to take a “sick” day so they could go Black Friday shopping. Another 6.4 million Canadians intended to book a vacation day. With millions of people bound to end up at malls and big-box stores, it’s inevitable for parking lots to quickly fill up and get congested.
Overcrowded conditions and limited parking spaces join forces on Black Friday to wreak havoc and cause a record number of parking lot accidents. In fact, this day made it to Yahoo’s list of the 10 worst days for driving. According to data collected by a U.S.-based insurance company, the number of claims on Black Friday doubled and parking lot claims increased by 36% from 2010 to 2011. Most of the accidents involved rear-ending or a parked car being hit.
Parking lot accidents may not seem common since vehicles move much slower in these zones, but they actually make up a substantial part of pedestrian-automobile accidents in America. A study in the U.S. found that between 2004 and 2009, 23% of such accidents took place in parking lots. The study also showed that parking lot accidents make up 15% to 30% of severe injuries, despite having the lowest number of severe collisions. In the rare severe cases, about 1-in-5 parking lot accidents involving pedestrians lead to incapacitating injuries.
What leads to accidents in the parking lot?
According to DriversEd.com, there are various factors that make parking lots a prone site for accidents.
- The driving lanes in parking lots are much more narrow compared to regular roadways, bringing vehicles into closer contact with one another.
- Pedestrians are free to walk anywhere in the driving area of parking lots.
- Drivers’ attention tends to shift more towards finding a parking spot, instead of focusing on driving safely. As a result, they may unintentionally miss an approaching vehicle or pedestrian.
- When parked between two cars, it is much more difficult to see if another vehicle is approaching from behind when a driver tries to back up out of their spot.
- Crowded parking lots tend to spark people’s stress and anger, which can in turn lead to unsafe reckless driving.
Keep the following safety tips in mind to make your Black Friday parking lot experience as smooth and peaceful as possible.
- Drive slowly and use your turn signals. This way, pedestrians and other drivers are aware of where you want to go and have enough time to adjust their movements accordingly.
- Be alert, especially when backing up. Many parking lot accidents involve vehicles backing up. Just like when you drive on a regular roadway, you have to maintain that same level of focus and safety in parking lots to avoid hitting other cars and pedestrians.
- Abide to stop signs and speed limit signs. Stop signs are usually posted at spots where pedestrians cross the most. Make sure you halt when approaching these signs and follow the set speed limits to prevent severe collisions.
- Be patient. Don’t hover right behind a vehicle that you think is going to back up so you can take their space. This could block traffic and create tension with other drivers.
- Use your headlights, even if it’s daytime. Having your car’s lights on makes it easier for other cars and pedestrians to see you, lessening the chance of collisions.
- Be mindful of the arrows on the pavement that indicate the designated direction for each lane. This will lessen the chances of colliding head-on with a vehicle driving in the opposite direction.
- Park farther away. Parking spaces closer to the mall or store entrance tend to fill up the fastest, making this area the most crowded in the lot. This congestion is heightened during days like Black Friday. Hence, it would be smarter to park farther away from the entrance where there is less car and pedestrian traffic. This extra space would give you less trouble when exiting and entering your vehicle, and when backing out of your parking spot.
- Park in well-lit areas. This will make it easier for you to see other cars and for other drivers to see your vehicle, lessening the chances of accidents caused by hindered vision.
- Enter a parking space by backing up whenever possible. Try to enter a parking space by backing up and have the front of your vehicle face the driving lane if circumstances allow you to. It will be much easier for you to see your surroundings when you exit.
- Avoid parking next to SUVs and minivans. Larger vehicles take up a lot of space, making them more vulnerable to unintentional dings when you try to back out.
- Choose a parking space where your vehicle will have enough room. This will make the parking lot less restrictive and much easier for drivers and pedestrians to navigate through.
- Don’t solely rely on backup cameras. These cameras only show what’s directly behind your vehicle. You should still turn your head to survey the surrounding area for other vehicles or pedestrians before backing out. If you have passengers with you, ask them to also be on the lookout.
- Pay attention. Scan the area and focus on where you’re walking. This way, you can prevent tripping on road bumps or potholes, and colliding with oncoming vehicles. Also, avoid distractions like cellphones and listening to music so you can be more alert.
- Make eye contact. When crossing, look approaching drivers in the eye to make sure they see you and will let you cross.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Make sure you have shoes with good traction to prevent tripping in the parking lot. Also, try wearing light-coloured or reflective clothing so it’s easier for drivers to see you.
- Make use of marked crosswalks. Try to cross at designated crosswalks because drivers will proceed with more caution in these zones, lessening the chances of accidents.
- Bring company when you go shopping. It will be much easier to carry a lot of bags when you have a friend or family member to share the load with. This will lessen your chances of tripping or having to pick up dropped bags from the pathway of oncoming vehicles. Also, it is easier for drivers to spot bigger groups of people in comparison to pedestrians walking alone.
- Walk in places that are well-lit. This will reduce the possibility of pedestrians slipping, tripping, and falling.
Ensure you save both money and lives this Black Friday by upholding safety in mall parking lots. If you have been injured in a parking lot accident either in your vehicle or as a pedestrian, contact us today to learn about how we can help you receive the compensation you deserve.