Tips to avoid parking lot collisions during busy shopping season

Tips to avoid parking lot collisions during busy shopping season In anticipation of the busiest shopping time of the year, AAA South Dakota offers tips to help mall-bound drivers avoid fender benders or injuries that could make them lose their holiday cheer.

Crashes happen frequently in parking lots and have the potential to be quite dangerous, particularly for pedestrians. According to The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 20 percent of all collisions resulting in damage claims occur in parking lots.

AAA offers the following tips to help motorists navigate the parking lot and make better, safer decisions to protect their cars and themselves.

* 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.

* 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, even in the daytime, keeping your headlights on reduces your crash risk.

* Don't put yourself in a tight spot. Avoid parking between a pair of tall SUVs and 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.

* 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. In some municipalities, however, backing into spaces amid moving traffic is illegal and, by impeding traffic flow, can sometimes to more harm than good.

* 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 � especially hard-to-see children.

* Don't let a grinch steal your gifts. Place packages and shopping bags in the trunk so that they won't be visible to would-be thieves. It takes a thief just seconds to smash a window and steal your shopping loot.

* 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.

"Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings," said Cheri Cihak, AAA's director of public affairs. "The holidays are a busy time for everyone, but remember that when you're behind the wheel, your focus should be on driving � whether you're on the highway or in a parking lot."

AAA is not for profit federation of 86 clubs with 1,100 offices providing 46 million members in the United States and Canada with travel, insurance, financial and auto-related services. AAA South Dakota has offices in Aberdeen, Brookings, Huron, Madison, Mitchell, Pierre, Rapid City, Spearfish, Sioux Falls (3), Vermillion, Watertown and Yankton.

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