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So, you think cruising through a parking lot or mall garage at 5 mph is safer than barreling down the interstate at 70 mph? Well, you might be surprised to learn that 1 in 5 accidents occur in a parking lot. Add a holiday to the mix and that ratio increases to 2 in 5 accidents, due to many more drivers shopping the malls for last minute gifts, according to the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers Association.

 

Drivers are more distracted than ever

 

With the advent of cellphones – for texting, talking, and taking selfies – drivers are more distracted than ever and that spells trouble for anyone searching for the perfect parking spot. Not that you’ve painted a target on your car that says – “Hit me here” – but, your chances of having a fender bender or being involved in a pedestrian accident resulting in bodily injury are much greater than you think.

 

While many new cars have improved technology, including backup cameras and sensors to assist drivers in avoiding parking lot accidents, the automobile market as a whole hasn’t reached the point where the technology is a standard feature on all vehicles. Furthermore, older vehicles are void of any of these safety features.

 

Take precautions and be alert

 

Dan Young, U.S. brand president for CARSTAR, a national network of auto body repair experts, and chairman of the National Auto Body Council’s “Distracted Driving Initiative”, says drivers need to take precautions and be alert while maneuvering through a parking lot. Because many people don’t look first before pulling out of a parking spot, anyone driving nearby is vulnerable to being involved in an accident.

 

A parking lot accident can result in minor to moderate damage to your vehicle, but it can easily cause a great deal more damage to your finances, if you’re found to be responsible. Your car insurance rates will rise pretty much the same at 5 mph as they would at 35 mph. And, although these types of accidents tend to cause vehicle damage only, injuries and fatalities can also occur when pedestrians are involved.

 

Average of 1,621 killed annually

 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports an average of 1,621 people are killed annually in what it classifies as “non-traffic” crashes, which mostly take place in parking lots and driveways or on private roads. In addition, 91,000 people are injured in these crashes each year.

 

Should you get into a fender-bender in a parking lot, follow the same basic rules you would if you’re involved in an accident on the street – exchange information with the other driver and document the damage by taking photos at the scene, including the position of the cars to help determine fault.

 

Next time you’re driving around a parking lot looking for the closest spot to the entrance, keep your eyes peeled for vehicles backing out and pedestrians weaving willy-nilly between parked cars while talking on their cellphones. You may also want to make sure you’ve got sufficient auto insurance coverage in the event you hit someone on foot and face a lawsuit as it could ruin you financially.

 

In the end – avoid distractions and stay alert – even if no one else is.

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