Those of us of a certain age will remember the gas-guzzling automobiles of the 1950s and early 1960s. The huge Buicks and Cadillacs weighed up to two tons and came complete with gaudy fins, multi-color paint jobs, massive V-8 engines, and lots of chrome. The cars were big and so were the parking lots.
That all changed with the emergence of the compact car. Parking lot spaces shrank, allowing more cars per lot and the massive population of teenage Baby Boomers put a lot more drivers behind the wheel. The inevitable result was a large increase in parking lot accidents that are unique in their own way. And with the emergence of SUVs, larger vans and trucks, and ATVs, the problem is not going to fade away.
Fortunately, parking lot accidents are slow speed events and while injuries and fatalities have occurred, they are rare events compared to the much more common “fender benders”. If an injury occurs, it’s more likely a result of someone slipping or falling while entering or exiting the automobile.
Modern technologies like rearview cameras plus driver education programs to increase awareness can help drivers avoid accidents but here is a short list of tips that may further help avoid those that happen in a parking lot:
· Simply slowing down a bit is one of the best ways to avoid parking lot accidents. A speed of 8 miles per hour is about 12 feet per second. Reducing speed to 5 mph (about 7 fps) will give the driver that extra split second to prevent striking a car emerging from a hidden parking spot.
· Drivers emerging from that hidden spot will need to creep out very slowly and be aware of any oncoming cars. No need to be “macho”, ask a passerby to guide you out of a tight spot.
· Traffic signs and pavement markings in a parking lot are there for a reason. Obey them.
· Be patient. No need to honk at a snail-like auto driven by an inexperienced or timid driver. Waiting a few seconds or even moments is not worth the blare of a horn that could startle such a driver into causing an unfortunate event.
· Never, ever speed toward that one open parking spot in a race with another driver.
· Know the basic rules of driving as they still apply in a parking lot. Those rules include giving the right-of-way to vehicles in the through lanes and giving way to a driver in the opposite row who backs out of the space just before you do.
· The only tip not directed toward drivers sitting behind the wheel is aimed at pedestrians, strolling in a parking lot. They need to remain aware of their surroundings and always assume they are invisible to drivers.
Even the most careful driver will likely be involved in an accident at some time. While a parking lot accident is not a newsworthy event (unless a celebrity is involved, or a riot breaks out as a result of it) there is a right way and many wrong ways to deal with the aftermath.
First, stay calm and do not accept or assign any blame for the incident even if it is obvious who is at fault. Follow as closely as possible the instructions on the back of the card issued by your insurance company. If the police or any authorities have been called, wait for them to arrive and do their job. They may not write a ticket if the lot is considered private property, but their report can provide a lot of helpful information if events are disputed at a later time.
Next is to contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the incident. Today’s new vehicles have much more gadgetry and a have a much thinner and lighter “skin” compared to those thick steeled 1950s gas hogs. Even a minor impact can cause thousands of dollars damage.
Most important is to make sure that you have a good auto policy in effect with the right levels of coverage and deductibles. This is best accomplished by contacting (Frederick Agency or name of company) via email at (insert email here), text (enter text number here) or phone (enter phone number here) to discuss your coverage and to see if you are eligible for any safe driving discounts.