AAA: Avoid driving distractions on the new Black Friday

aaaThanksgiving Day is the “new Black Friday,” with some big box stores throwing open their doors to shoppers on the holiday itself as well as Black Friday, the first day of the traditional Christmas shopping season.

With Black Friday shopping sales starting as early as Thanksgiving night, AAA is reminding shoppers to use caution, avoid distractions and keep their calm while searching for that perfect parking spot. Not only will many motorists be rushing to get a coveted parking space to hit ‘door buster’ sales and other holiday bargains on Black Friday, some shoppers, unfortunately, will suffer a disabling injury after being struck by a car in the parking lot.

Two-thirds of drivers will likely be distracted as they navigate parking lots and parking garages, a recent poll by the National Safety Council finds. Drivers should play it safe and avoid cruising about distractedly in parking lots, garages or out on the highway. After exiting the stores, shoppers should stop talking on the phone and texting while walking into the parking lot or parking garage and take out the ear buds. Nationally, one out of every five car crashes occurs in parking garages and parking lots, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“We know that traffic will be much more congested near and around malls and shopping centers after Thanksgiving,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA. “It is imperative for motorists to concentrate on driving and avoid distractions while shoppers should focus on not letting their guard down when entering and walking through a parking lot.”

Across the nation approximately 20 percent of all vehicle collisions that result in damage claims occur in parking lotsaccording to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Additionally, on average, more than 50,000 crashes occur in parking lots and parking garages annually, resulting in 500 or more deaths and more than 60,000 injuries, according to Injury Facts 2016.

AAA is also reminding shoppers to pay attention, as they enter or leave stores, as distracted walking is a serious safety issue, as well. NSC’s poll found that two-thirds – 66 percent – of drivers would make phone calls while driving through a parking lot, and 56 percent would text.

AAA offers the following TOP 10 Safety Tips for Black Friday:

1) Stay on guard in parking lots.  Be aware of your surroundings and park in well-lit areas when shopping during early morning hours and at night. When returning to your vehicle, have keys ready in hand, check under your car and in the back seat before getting in, and lock your doors as soon as you get in. Watch for loiters and report suspicious people.

2) See and be seen.  Use your headlights when scouring parking garages for spaces, even in the daytime.  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.

3) Slow down, buckle up and obey the laws.  Drive the speed limit, stop at stop signs, don’t park in spaces designated for disabled persons, and don’t text and/or talk on the phone. Ensure all passengers are buckled up even if it is a short trip to another part of the parking lot as even a low-speed collision can result in injuries.

4) Head for the side door.  Many shoppers prefer to park near their favorite stores or near the mall entrance. Most malls have secondary entrances on the sides and those entrances usually have less traffic and additional convenient spaces.

5) Play the outfield.  Outlying areas normally have more open spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to walk off the holiday treats. In some cases, however, those spaces may not be as secure so be aware of the risks.

6) Refrain from reverse.  If possible, avoid backing out of a space by either backing into it or pulling through two spaces that are open nose-to-nose.

7) Look out for children and distracted pedestrians.  It can be difficult to see small children in busy parking lots, who may make quick, unpredictable movements. Hold the hands of your children to keep them safe from traffic. Also, watch out for those not watching out for themselves as they are focused on their smart phones.

8) Stay on track and alert.  Pedestrians should use walkways and crosswalks, if available. If walking in the traffic lanes is unavoidable, be alert for subtle cues – including exhaust or reverse lights – that signal a vehicle is about to pull out.

9) Lock your car and hide valuables.  Thieves like to window shop. Place all shopping bags and valuables in the trunk, including the GPS and its mount, and always lock your car. Remove any evidence, such as GPS suction cup marks from the vehicle’s windshield. It takes a thief just seconds to smash a window and steal your shopping loot.

10) Wait until Cyber Monday Many retailers will have special online promotions on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

“Unfortunately, tempers can run high and patience short as drivers circle the parking lot in search of an empty parking space,” said Meade. “Careless and inattentive driving in crowded parking lots could result in additional holiday expenses, including fender-benders, personal injuries and a general Grinch-like attitude. Don’t let distractions and your dash for deals dampen your holiday spirits.”


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