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AAA offers tips on surviving the holiday parking lot

The weeks before Christmas are the busiest shopping time of the year, AAA New York offers tips to help mall-bound drivers avoid fender benders or injuries that could make them lose their holiday cheer.

“People know to be concerned about safety on highways and neighborhood streets, but they forget to be on alert in parking lots,” said Ed Welsh, Central Region Manager. “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.

AAA New York 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.

Learn to play the outfield. Outlying areas have more spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision. Plus, it doesn’t hurt any of us to walk off holiday treats. In some cases, however, those spaces may not be as secure, so be aware of the risks. Outlying spaces are sometimes a foot narrower than their more convenient counterparts, so using these spaces can mean a dinged door or difficulty pulling in and out.

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 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.

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 do 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 Welsh. “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 New York, founded in 1901, is a fully taxpaying, not-for-profit motor club corporation. About 76,000 AAA members live in the upstate New York Regions and are part of the over 1.5 million members in the club’s total territory, all within New York State. AAA New York is one of five clubs in New York State and is a member of the AAA/CAA national organization, a federation of 58 clubs which serves over 51 million members in the United States and Canada.

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