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Fact Sheet


There is a lot of information about defensive driving while on roadways, but what about parking lots? These seemingly endless stretches of asphalt present their own set of hazards. Whether parking for work, on a quick shopping trip or dropping the kids off, extra precautions are needed to keep everyone safe.

Be alert and slow down. Many parking lot crashes occur when vehicles cut across a parking area, often to avoid traffic signals on main roads. These drivers often exceed the posted lot limit. Crashes also occur at entrances to mall parking lots and on the mall's perimeter roads.

Take care and look for "sharks"--and try not to be one! Sharks are drivers who are so intent upon finding the perfect parking place that they fail to pay attention to conditions around them.

Watch your back. The greatest number of parking lot crashes occur when backing out of a space. If possible, back into your space, or pull forward into the space directly in front of you, so that when you leave, you are pulling forward into traffic. When you back out of a parking space, look over your shoulder (don't rely on your mirrors alone) and open a window a crack so you can hear any cars that you may not see.

Signal those turns. Using your turn signals is as essential in the parking lot as on the road. When you're waiting for a parking space, your turn signal tells people you intend to park once the space is open. When two vehicles pull up to a space at the same time, common courtesy dictates that the vehicle on the same side as the spot has the right of way.

Follow the rules of the lot. Parking lots are marked with speed limit, stop and directional arrow signs. Many lots also use speed bumps to regulate the speed of automobiles.

Be aware of the parking lot surface; report deteriorated conditions and any other hazards to the management. Uneven pavement or potholes can cause damage to vehicles as well as injuries to pedestrians.

Parking ramps have some additional concerns. Always take your ticket with you. If a thief finds your vehicle attractive, it will be more difficult for them to leave the ramp if the ticket isn't in the auto.

When exiting a parking ramp, be on the lookout for any traffic entering the exit lane or ramp from other parking levels. Also, watch for indications that a vehicle is preparing to vacate a parking spot: brake lights, back-up lights, exhaust and driver body language.

Park in a well-lit section of a lot or ramp, in an area that is not isolated. If possible, avoid shrubs, walls or signs; they can obstruct your vision when exiting and also provide potential hiding places for assailants.

Secure any valuables in the trunk and activate any security devices. Make sure all doors are locked and windows are rolled up.

If you are uncomfortable walking to your vehicle after dark or alone, don't hesitate to ask the lot management for an escort. Many lots and ramps provide escort services.

In today's busy world parents are often dropping children off for various activities, from sports practice to music lessons or the movies. Keeping children safe in parking areas requires clear instructions and vigilance.
 Allow plenty of time to travel to your destination. Kids are often excited about the event and love to run. They often fail to look both ways for traffic. Reinforce the rules of properly crossing the street. These rules also apply to parking lots.
 Look for a designated loading/unloading zone. If one is not present, find a less busy area in which to drop off the kids.

American Youth Soccer Association
The National Institute of Justice
Lexington Herald-Leader
The Hartford Insurance Company

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or phone 605-361-7785 or 1-800-952-5539.