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.
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 top-10 tips:
- Slow 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 later.
- Tune 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 winter day.
- Covet quiet corners. You'll have fewer cars and pedestrians to dodge. If it's after dark, though, choose spaces with bright lighting.
- Pick a pull-through when possible. Most parking lot accidents involve backing. Less backing means less risk.
- Steer 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 car.
- Say 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.
- Skip 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.
- Choose 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.
- Back 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.)