You know you need to stay alert on the road, but what happens when you’re in a parking lot? Many drivers inadvertently let their guard down when in parking lots. The low speeds can make a parking lot seem safer than the open road, but accidents happen frequently in parking lots and garages.
Keep yourself, other drivers, and pedestrians safe when you’re in a parking facility by following these 12 tips for parking lot safety.
1. Stay Off of Technology
It’s easy to get distracted by technology like your phone, GPS, or infotainment system when you’re driving in a parking lot. It’s a good idea to set your route to your next destination or get your favorite songs playing before you get on the road.
You might be tempted to roll through the parking lot while scrolling on your phone, but this causes you to lose focus on the area around you. Be sure to set up all of your technology needs — like GPS directions or a text to let a friend know you’re on your way — before putting the car in gear. This reduces your distractions and allows you to pay more attention to what’s going on around you in the parking facility.
2. Pick a Well-Lit Area
When parking at night or in the evening, look for a parking area and space that is well-lit. Lights help deter criminals from trying to break into your car while you’re away. A well-lit area also helps keep you safe if someone tries to hide near your car when you return.
Lighting doesn’t just keep you safe from thieves, however. Lots of light from a streetlight or parking lot lamps makes it easier to see any objects or hazards around your car. If an object falls off of another vehicle and lands behind your car, you’re more likely to notice with plenty of light.
3. Lock Your Car
Locking your car is one of the easiest ways to help prevent theft when you’re parked in a lot. Take the time to roll your windows up and check that you have your keys before walking away from your vehicle.
You should also consider locking your car when you get back in it as you get ready to take off. Locking the doors, while you set up your technology, helps keep you safe from potential car thieves or other criminals.
4. Look Both Ways
You know you need to look both ways before crossing a road as a pedestrian, and you should follow these same rules as a driver in a parking lot. You might want to keep even more of a lookout when you’re in the driver’s seat in a parking lot. Many parking lots have intersections without stop signs or crosswalks. This means you need to be on high alert for oncoming traffic or pedestrians as you navigate the lot.
5. Stay in the Lanes
Use the aisles of the parking lot or garage to navigate to your preferred parking space. Don’t cut across aisles or through spaces to shorten the drive. It’s much more difficult for other drivers or pedestrians to know where you’re going if you don’t stay in the driving areas.
Your risk of an accident is also higher if both you and another driver are cutting lanes. If both of you are looking the wrong way and going against the traffic lanes, you could end up colliding. Staying in the designated driving aisles reduces the risk of an accident or fender bender and keeps you safe.
6. Walk Around Your Car Before Leaving
It’s usually a good idea to take a walk around your car before pulling out of a parking lot. The benefits of inspecting your car and parking area before leaving include:
- You’ll be able to see any debris or objects in the way of your tires.
- You can look for scratches, dents, or dings left by other parking lot users.
- You can double-check all doors and latches are closed before leaving.
If you’re in an area where you don’t feel safe walking around outside of your car, you can skip a full inspection. You might still want to do a quick check for anything in the way of your tires that could harm your vehicle or make it difficult to leave the lot.
7. Pull Through if Possible
Backing out of a parking spot leaves you with blind spots that make it difficult to see pedestrians or other cars. Try to pull through the spot in front of you when parking to avoid the need to back up when you leave.
By pulling through to the next spot, you can simply continue driving forward when it’s time to leave. This gives you more visibility to look for hazards on the road.
8. Keep Valuables Out of Sight
Place valuables or items likely to be stolen from your vehicle in an unseen area of your vehicle. Your trunk is the perfect place to store large items or valuables if you have a sedan, for example. SUV, van, or pickup-truck drivers, may want to use under-seat storage or invest in dark-colored blankets that match the interior of your vehicle. You can use the blankets to cover your valuables when you leave your car in the parking lot.
9. Watch Out for Pedestrians
Parking lots are often full of people walking on the road as they make their way to and from their car. With so many pedestrians around, it’s more important than usual to pay attention to people in the roadway.
Follow defensive driving tactics to help you stay alert and on the lookout for pedestrians who aren’t paying attention. Many people are looking at their phones, listening to music through headphones, or dealing with young children when they’re in a parking lot. They may not be paying attention to cars in the aisles, so you need to be extra careful to avoid them.
10. Slow Down
You probably slow down a lot when you leave the road and enter a parking facility, but you may need to go even slower. When changing from road driving speeds to parking lot speeds, it’s easy to think you’re going slow enough because of the difference in speeds. After slowing down to enter the parking lot, consider tapping the brakes or taking your foot off the gas again to reduce your speed even more after you’re in the lot.
11. Follow Directions
Stop signs, yield signs, and directional arrows are put into parking lots to make the flow of traffic safer for drivers and pedestrians alike. Watch out for road signs in the parking lot and follow the directions. Not only will you help keep the parking lot traffic moving, but you’ll be less likely to be involved in an accident.
12. Know What to Do in an Accident
No matter how well you follow directions, watch for other cars, or pay attention in the parking lot, there’s always a chance you’ll be in an accident. Make sure you know what to do in a parking lot accident before you have to deal with the stress of a collision.
Even at low speeds, parking lot accidents can cause a lot of damage. Check that your car insurance is up to date and that you have the coverage you need so you’re prepared in case of an accident.