The National Retail Federation predicts that approximately 95.5 million shoppers nationwide will take advantage of Black Friday deals and nearly 26 million on Gray Thursday (Thanksgiving Day). In total, 140 million are expected to join the shopping frenzy this weekend, numbers which are sure to result in parking lots which are overflowing with often frantic shoppers.
“We’re urging motorists to use common sense this holiday season,” said Martha M. Meade, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “It’s fun to shop until you drop, but shoppers have to use common sense and exercise patience when shopping this Thanksgiving weekend.”
According to AAA, one area of concern for both personal and vehicle safety is parking lots. As the lots start to fill, parking spaces become scarce, tempers get short, and patience starts to run low. A parking lot incident can squash holiday cheer. “Expect parking lots to be busy,” Meade said. “The crowded lots and bustling shoppers combine to make holiday parking lots prime locations for problems.”
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 14 percent of all vehicle collisions that result in damage claims occur in parking lots. Don’t let trivial parking lot wars dim your holiday glow, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. Avoid petty confrontations that can result in additional holiday expenses, including fender-benders, personal injuries and a general Grinch-like attitude.
Last year in Claypool Hill, Virginia, an argument over a parking space in a Walmart parking lot on Black Friday, turned violent which led to the stabbing and malicious wounding of 35-year-old Christopher Jackson.
“Unfortunately, tempers can run high and patience short as drivers circle parking lots in frustrating bumper to bumper traffic,” added Meade. “Before heading out for any holiday shopping, be in the right mindset knowing that many consumers will be on the same quest.”
Excited shoppers also frequently lock their keys in their cars as they rush to take advantage of sale prices, limited quantities and juggling packages. “AAA lock out technicians stay very busy from today through the end of the year assisting members who have inadvertently locked their keys in the car,” Meade added.
Theft, a crime of opportunity, is also high during the holiday season and what better time to be on the prowl for a would-be robber than when the most people will be out buying expensive and coveted holiday gifts. AAA reminds shoppers to keep all valuables out of site, preferably in the trunk of the car.
AAA offers the following holiday parking lot safety tips:
- Head for the side door and play the outfield. Many shoppers want 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. Also, 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.
- 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. Research shows that keeping vehicle headlights on reduces crash risks, even during daylight hours.
- Beware of tall vehicles. 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.
- Look out for little ones. It can be difficult to see small children in busy parking lots. Be aware of your surroundings and look for children, who may make quick, unpredictable movements. When walking to and from stores, hold the hands of your children to keep them safe from traffic.
- 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.
- Make sure you have your keys before locking the car door. Every year on the weekend after Thanksgiving, AAA technicians stay very helping members who are stranded because they are locked out of their cars.
- Thieves like to window shop. Place all shopping bags and valuables in the trunk, including the GPS and its mount, so they won’t be visible to would-be thieves. 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.
- Stay on guard in parking lots. Choose a well-lighted area to park at night. When returning to your vehicle, have keys ready in hand and check the car’s interior before entering, using a keychain flashlight or even a smartphone app.
- Slow down, buckle up. Even a low-speed collision can result in injuries. Make sure that everyone is strapped in a seat belt or child safety seat while the vehicle is in motion, even if it is just a short trip to another part of the parking lot.
- Wait until Cyber Monday. Many retailers will have special online promotions on Cyber Monday.