When you think "dangerous driving conditions," you
probably envision freeways clogged with aggressive, texting drivers or winding
mountain roads where nothing but a guardrail separates you from the abyss. But
the truth is, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as many
as one in five crashes occur in the sleepiest driving environment of all:
Parking lots blend density, distraction, and competition in
a perfect recipe for crumpled fenders (and sadly, sometimes tragic pedestrian
accidents). We asked our claims experts how you can avoid becoming one of the
hundreds of parking-lot collision cases they handle each year. Here are their
down. Way down. Sure you may miss out on that spot opening
up near the store entrance, but you're more likely to see the toddler
darting out between cars or the driver who backs first and looks
up your brake-light radar. See brake lights come on? Expect that car
to start backing immediately. Ditto for a puffing tailpipe on a cold
quiet corners. You'll have fewer cars and pedestrians to dodge. If
it's after dark, though, choose spaces with bright lighting.
a pull-through when possible. Most parking lot accidents involve
backing. Less backing means less risk.
clear of the cart return. A shopper's errant aim may send a cart
barreling into your fender. And on sloped lots, higher is better, since
you'll reduce your risk that a runaway cart will roll downhill into your
no to two-door neighbors. Coupes have longer doors than sedans,
meaning when the doors are flung open, they have a greater chance of
dinging your car.
the two-swinger. If a parking spot is so tight that it takes you a
couple of tries to get in, it likely will be even harder to get out – both
for you and the car parked next to you. Always center your car evenly
between the lines.
a one-sided spot. Pick spots at the end of rows or next to concrete
barriers so you only have cars pulling in and out on one side.
in, not out. Were you that kid in drivers-ed who earned a perfect
score on backing? Use those skills to back into spots that abut sidewalks.
When it comes time to leave, you won't be straining over your shoulder to
see traffic coming at you from both sides.
Time your trip. When possible, shop during off-peak
hours. Grocery stores tend to be busiest on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 4
p.m. (Monday and Tuesday evenings are the quietest.)