Auto Club Warns of Patience, Protection in Mall Parking Lots

December 17, 2003

As the holidays draw closer and closer, the Automobile Club of Southern California is offering tips to help shopping-mall-bound drivers avoid fender benders or injuries that could make them lose their holiday cheer.

And if last year is any indication of consumers’ timing, it’s just reportedly going to get more hectic.

Approximately 41 percent of the holiday sales were rung up at registers during the last seven days before Christmas, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. And with Hanukkah beginning at sundown Friday, the malls are sure to be extra busy.

“The closer we get to the holidays, the tougher it is for people to be patient. This is especially true in mall parking lots and streets near the malls,” said Arline Dillman, the Auto Club’s traffic safety expert. “As the holidays approach, it’s also wise for people to be more aware of their surroundings. Crashes happen frequently in parking lots and have the potential to be quite dangerous, particularly for pedestrians.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that 20 percent of all collisions resulting in damage claims occur in parking lots.

As the holiday countdown continues, and mall parking lots and surrounding roads become more congested, the Auto Club is offering these tips to motorists and pedestrians to avoid becoming a crash or theft victim:

While shopping

— Be prepared. Anticipate that the malls will become busier with last minute holiday shoppers. Allow more time to find a parking space. Be nice and remember it may be easier to park farther away than closer to shops. If it’s nighttime, park in a well-lit area.

— Time your trips to the mall. Try to shop in the evenings or when stores open early in the morning.

— Head for the side door. At the mall, everyone wants to park near the stores, especially near the main entrance. But most malls have secondary entrances on the sides, and those entrances usually have less traffic and more convenient spaces.

— Don’t let a grinch steal your gifts. Don’t set yourself up for a vehicle break-in by leaving your purse, wallet, packages or other valuables in view while your car is parked or while you’re driving. Put packages and shopping bags in the trunk.

— Don’t argue. If someone approaches you in the parking lot with a weapon and demands your wallet, purse or car, comply. The loss of these items isn’t worth your health, safety or possibly your life.

While driving

— Buckle up! Even a low-speed collision can result in injuries. Make sure that everyone is strapped in a seat belt or child seat while the car is in motion, even if it’s just a short trip to another part of the parking lot.

— See and be seen. Use your headlights during the daytime so that other drivers will see you and avoid crashes in parking lots and on the streets. Research shows that, even in daytime, keeping your headlights on reduces your crash risk.

— Exercise caution. Be aware of your surroundings and pay extra attention to the cars around you, especially when you back out of your parking space.

— Look out for little ones. Children 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 from traffic.

— Stay “on track” and alert on foot. Pedestrians should use walkways and crosswalks, if available. If you must walk in the traffic lanes, be alert for subtle cues — such as car exhaust or reverse lights — that signal a car is about to pull out. When behind the wheel, always be on the lookout for pedestrians and hard-to-see children.

— Check your vehicle’s equipment. Make sure your defroster or defogger is working properly. Make sure your windows are clear before backing out of your parking spot.

— Move it. Remove any shopping carts that might accidentally get pushed into your car. These losses are considered insurance losses and your insurance deductible would have to be paid — by you.

— Be careful. Be aware that if you’re found to be at fault in a parking lot crash, you might have to pay your collision deductible and the crash could count as a point on your motor vehicle record.

— Get the vital statistics. In the event of a crash, be sure to obtain the names, addresses, telephone numbers, insurance carriers and policy numbers of the other motorists.

Try alternatives

— Go high tech. Use public transportation, shop by catalog or use the Internet to avoid the shopping mall parking lots completely.

“The bottom line is, don’t let parking lot chaos or a thief ruin your holiday season,” added Dillman.

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