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You have successfully made your way back into your car after stopping to run an errand, and it is easy to start thinking of what’s left on your “To do” list, and drive away.  However, a study completed by the Independent Insurance Agents and Broker’s Association noted that 20 percent of insurance claims were related to parking lot accidents!  In a parking lot, drivers feel they can be less aware because they are not on the road.  Additionally, the two main factors contributing to that statistic are limited visibility and driver distraction.

A full parking lot, including piles of snow (like we know we have, here in the Flathead Valley), makes it hard for a driver to see potential hazards.  To avoid these hazards, park in a spot where a snowdrift or snow pile makes it hard to see.  If you cannot see someone, they are probably unable to see you, as well.  Another suggestion is to back into a parking space.  The extra time you spend backing your car into a spot will make it easier and safer to leave the spot when you are done.  Backing in increases the driver’s field of view when pulling out of a space.  Though many vehicles have back up cameras, the American Automobile Association has found that backing in is the safest way to park a car.  If you are unable to back into a space, take note of what is happening in the parking lot as you walk to your car- be aware of the people nearby, how close the cars nearest to you are parked, if there is a lot of traffic in the lot, etc.

The second contributing factor to parking lot accidents is distractions.  Between the radio, cell phone, adjusting the heat, and passengers, there are many things that can take a driver’s attention away from pulling out of their parking spot.  Make sure everything is put away and you are done with these distractions, before moving your vehicle.

As a pedestrian walking in a parking lot, remember there are potential dangers associated with this, too.  Trying to stay bundled and warm when walking to your car may cause you to look down and be less aware of what is going on around you.  Make eye contact with a driver, to ensure they see you.  Stop walking if you don’t think the driver has seen you.  Snow muffles engine sounds so don’t rely on hearing a vehicle to know if one is coming.

These are a few suggestions and reminders for winter parking lot safety.  Some of these do take a few extra minutes of your time, but your safety, and everyone else’s safety is worth it.

The attorneys and Bryan, diStefano & Mattingley PLLP wish you a happy and safe winter season!