Parking lot perils prevail on Black Friday, Christmas shopping season

The National Retail Federation predicts that approximately 97 million shoppers nationwide will take advantage of Black Friday deals today. 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.

AAA LogoAAA Mid-Atlantic reminds eager bargain hunters to stay focused on safety when searching for the ever coveted parking space today and throughout the holiday shopping season. “Retailers create and feed the frenzy and excitement that comes with great deals this time of year, however, AAA urges shoppers to keep any panicked feelings at bay at least until they are safely parked and inside a store or mall,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager, Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Parking lots this time of year can seem more like bumper car games, a locksmith’s paradise and a thieves’ playground if common sense does not prevail.”

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 20 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. Unfortunately, tempers can run high and patience short as drivers circle parking lots in search of that coveted parking space,” added Meade. “Otherwise rational-thinking people can transform into someone completely different when the search for convenient parking and bargains begin.”

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.



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