When drivers exit the roadway and prepare to park their vehicle in front of a shopping mall, grocery store, event site, office building, or the place they work, they may believe they have left the dangers of the commute behind. It is a widespread misconception that a parking lot is an unlikely place for a devastating car crash to happen. But parking lot accidents are more common than one may hope to believe. A quick glance at a few statistics gives insight into a danger many of us may be guilty of underestimating.
- Approximately one in five car accidents happen in a parking lot or garage.
- Each year, parking areas are the site of an estimated 50,000+ crashes resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.
- Nearly 40% of fatalities in parking lot accidents are pedestrians.
- Small children, infants in strollers, and older adults are most at risk of fatality.
If you have been involved in a parking lot accident, the next step you take should be to get in contact with an attorney who has experience in car accident law. A qualified car accident lawyer can help you understand your rights and options, and give you the legal guidance you need to recover your losses and make sure negligent drivers are held accountable for their actions.
Why Parking Lots Pose Hidden Risks
For the following reasons, driving in a parking lot poses unique challenges that drivers do not generally face when traveling on the roadways:
- Distracted Driving. Distraction is far and away the number one leading cause of accident in parking lots. Cell phone usage, looking for open parking spaces, activating GPS and typing in addresses, hurrying to park and exit the vehicle, carrying on conversations with passengers, putting away packages, and even looking for pedestrians are all common behaviors which lead to unsafe conditions.
- False Sense of Security. In a place where actions such as speeding, running red lights, or taking turns too quickly are not usually a concern, people may become lax in practicing safe driving habits. Many drivers do not think of a parking lot as a place where a serious injury or fatality can occur, and are more focused on leaving their vehicle than driving it safely. This can become even more of a danger when drivers and passengers do not wear seatbelts in a parking lot.
- Traffic Moving in Multiple Directions. With high numbers of cars backing up, turning blind corners, driving down narrow passages, passing at tight angles, squeezing into compact spots, and moving across painted lines—many of them failing to use turn signals—a parking lot can become a jumble of movement in which it is difficult to know how to proceed safely.
- Mix of Pedestrians and Vehicles. A parking lot is full of people on foot, many of them with children, strollers, shopping carts, and heavy bags in tow. When this already dangerous scenario is compounded by distraction on the part of driver and pedestrian, as is commonly the case, the likelihood of an accident is increased even further.
- Failure to Follow Traffic Rules. It sometimes seems as though many drivers operate under the assumption that road signs and traffic directions do not matter in a parking lot. It is important to remember that most parking lots have stop signs, painted lines, one-way lanes, and sometimes even speed limits. Although the traffic rules may not be as stringent, obvious, or enforced as they are on the road, they are vital to the safety of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians in a parking lot.
- Poor Design. Many parking areas are difficult to navigate safely, even under the best conditions. Lack of visibility is one of the biggest problems, with other issues such as unclear driving directions, lack of designated walking areas for pedestrians, and poor lighting in parking lots or underground garages causing additional complications.
- Aggressive Driving. Parking can be a stressful activity, especially when there is a scarcity of spaces and drivers are in a hurry to park and enter the building. This can lead to aggressive and reckless driving, as drivers may fight for open spaces, rush to park, or speed through open areas without looking for oncoming vehicles or pedestrians.
Staying Safe in Parking Areas
The National Safety Council (NSC) makes recommendations on how you can stay safe when maneuvering your vehicle through the hazards of a parking lot. The following safety habits can help keep you, your passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers safe:
- Drive slowly and cautiously at all times.
- Avoid cutting across parking areas and stay in lanes whenever possible.
- Use turn signals.
- Be mindful of pedestrians, especially children and strollers.
- Be alert for rolling carts and any person or object which may appear suddenly.
- Anticipate the actions of other drivers.
- Park in well-lit areas with ease of exit whenever possible.
- Watch for cracked pavement, potholes, litter, or ice and snow if weather-applicable.
- Walk around your vehicle to check for low-lying objects before driving away.
- Reverse slowly out of parking spaces and do not rely only on mirrors or backup cameras.
- Do not look down at a phone, GPS, or mobile device screen while the vehicle is moving.
- Only make a phone call when you are safely parked.
- Be aware that parking lots are especially hazardous around holidays, especially Black Friday.
Contact Buckingham & Vega Law Firm in Midland, Texas
We want to keep our roads and parking areas in Midland safe for all of us. No matter where it occurs, it is devastating to be involved in a car crash, especially when you have been the victim of another driver’s negligence. If you’ve been in a parking lot accident, you may have sustained physical damages, in addition to emotional and financial ones. People who have suffered injuries from an auto wreck they did not cause could be eligible for compensation. A car accident lawyer from Buckingham & Vega Law Firm can walk with you through the steps of taking legal action to obtain the compensation you need to recover. Contact us today for an obligation-free discussion of your case.