The holiday shopping season is here, and while you're bumping
arms with other shoppers while reaching for the perfect gift,
your car may be getting a few bumps of its own out in the
Nicks, dings and scratches are common casualties to cars
caused primarily in parking lots; beyond just looking unsightly,
when it comes time to sell your vehicle or trade it in, those
"little" nicks and dings can significantly reduce the value. The
good news is, with just a little foresight on your part, they
can largely be avoided.
Parking lots are actually quite
risky, and for more than just the little dings. "People know to
be concerned about safety on highways and neighborhood streets,
but they forget to be on alert in parking lots," said Bella
Dinh-Zarr, Ph.D., AAA's Director of Traffic Safety Policy.
"Crashes happen frequently in parking lots and have the
potential to be quite dangerous, particularly for pedestrians."
They can be so risky, in fact, that the Insurance Institute for
Highway Safety reports that 20 percent of all collisions
resulting in damage claims occur in parking lots. To prevent the
crashes, bumps, thuds, nicks and dings, follow these top ten
parking lot driving tactics:
Don't park too close to
the shopping cart bin. Though you may be tempted (after all,
then only one car can park next to you), don't give in. Many
people launch shopping carts at the bin with one hand behind
their back, without stopping to look where the cart ends up (or
what it ricochets off of). Also, if it's windy, carts can easily
blow out of the bin and into your car.
If the spot's
small, keep going. You know the spot. It's the first in the
lane or the closest one by half a block. You hesitate for a
moment, then forge ahead, determined to wedge your car into it,
no matter how tight a squeeze. This is a surefire way for your
car to get bruised as the people parked next to you try to
squeeze into their cars. You'll probably get a few bruises
yourself when you try squeezing in and out. Remember, just
because you can fit "in the yellow lines" doesn't mean you
should take the spot.
Park as far out as (safely)
possible. As long as it's safe to do so, parking at the far
end of the parking lot means lighter traffic, less congestion
and lower risk of collision. Plus, a little extra walking could
do most all of us some good, particularly during the holidays
when you'll be sipping cocoa and savoring sweets more often than
Use side entrances. The main entryways of
stores are the most crowded. Look for doors on the sides of the
building; there will be fewer cars in the parking lot and more
accessible parking spaces.
Look behind you. When
backing out of a parking spot, we're used to looking left and
right, but don't forget to look directly behind you. A vehicle
across the way may be backing out at the same time, or shoppers
may be rushing by.
Don't get sandwiched. Going
back to the tight spot, avoid parking between two large SUVs,
truck or minivans. If you are driving a large car, the space
will be too tight. If you are driving a small car, you won't be
able to see around the other vehicles while you're backing out.
Use your headlights. Studies show that having your
headlights on--even during the day--reduces your risk of a
collision. And in certain regions, during the holidays many days
are gray and cloudy, so turning on your lights will make your
car easier to see for other drivers.
Head to the top.
If you're in a parking garage, many cars will be circling,
looking for the "premium" close spots. You can avoid this
frustration, and reduce your risk of collision, by simply
heading directly to the top floors. There's likely to be much
more space and less traffic, so even if you end up walking a bit
farther, you'll be able to park quickly and safely.
Slow down and be choosy. If you're finding that the holidays
have you trying to travel at the speed of light, slow down;
avoid risky driving just to get to a parking spot first. Just as
with your shopping, you should be choosy about where you park:
Is there enough space between your vehicle and the ones nearby?
Could shopping carts or other debris blow into your vehicle? Is
it well-lit and safe? Will you be able to back out of the spot
without difficulty? "In general, don't allow the holiday rush to
affect your driving, drive slowly, use your turn signal, park in
safe areas and practice defensive driving skills at all times,"
said Sebastian Giordano, chief operating officer of the Top
Driver driver education company. "By anticipating the actions of
other drivers and pedestrians, you may avoid senseless
Take public transportation ... or walk. By far, the
best way to ensure that your car remains dent- and
fender-bender-free is to not drive it at all! If it's available
in your area, public transportation is a great choice. If you
can, walking is the best choice, as you will also get excersie.
Alternatively, some larger shopping areas offer shuttles between
stores. This way, you can park your car in an outlying (safe)
area, then shuttle between stores without having to worry about
finding another parking spot.
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