The Wild West of driving or how to avoid accidents in parking lots
Those involved in personal injury accidents sometimes refer to parking lots as the Wild West. Parking lots produce a veritable show of driving hazards that are not present when driving down a regular street or highway.
The obstructions you ordinarily encounter when driving are big trucks, tractor trailers and other large vehicles. You can see them clearly enough to make a judgment as to what to do. You can pass the large vehicle or you can decide to keep a good distance behind it so you can see what’s happening up ahead. That’s not true in a parking lot.
Some obstructions in a parking lot are very difficult to see around. They can include hedges, walls and other parked vehicles. Other dangers, probably the biggest, are the drivers, some of whom drive way too fast for a parking lot, those that don’t pay close enough to pedestrians, or those who are backing out of a parking space without a clear view. Pedestrians in parking lots are also a potential hazard, especially if they are talking on their cell phones or generally not paying attention to where they are going.
Avoiding accidents in parking lots
The American Automobile Association (AAA) has enumerated some tips on how to avoid accidents in parking lots. They include the following:
Check your surroundings before getting into your car. Check to see if anyone is in the driver’s seat in the cars parked next to or near your car, or if anyone is getting ready to get into their car. This will give you a good sense of who is going to go where and allows you to think and drive defensively.
If possible, back into your parking space. This way, when you are ready to leave, it is much easier to see other cars and pedestrians.
Never rely solely on your rearview mirrors or backup cameras when you start to back out of your spot. You should also look over both shoulders through the back passenger window, as that is the path closest to you for another car to travel. Next, check your rear window and see if you observe any brake or reverse lights that would indicate cars in your path. This takes only a few seconds to accomplish, making the parking lot safer for everyone.
As you pull into a space, check that neither drivers nor passengers on both sides of you are opening their doors and proceed slowly.
You do not have the right of way when you leave spot; a car in the driving aisle does. So, before you put your foot on the gas pedal, you want to be sure there is not traffic in the driving lane behind you. Always inch out slowly. This way you will have more control of your vehicle then will a car driving past you in the aisle.
Take care of pedestrians and know they always have the right of way. Some are distracted and some drift into areas where they shouldn’t be. Protect them.
Take your time. Parking lots are full of people, cars and shopping carts, so drive as slowly as possible to protect them and yourself.
Steps to take if you are involved in a parking lot accident
Here are a few steps to take should you find yourself involved in a parking lot accident.
First check to see if anyone is injured and if so, call 911. Next call the police. Should you be unable to do any of this ask someone else to do it for you.
Most people have cell phones with cameras. Use your phone camera to take photos of all of the cars involved, the damage done, the point of impact, the area of the lot in which the accident occurred, and the placement of the cars. This may be of significant help in determining who is at fault.
Once you have completed the above, move your car out of the way, if you are blocking traffic and if your car is operable, and wait for the ambulance and/or the police to arrive.
If you are able, exchange information with the other driver(s), and be sure to get their name, address, phone number, and insurance information (name of insurance company and policy number).
Only when all of the above is completed, and if you are able, call your insurance company to report the accident.
Parking lot accidents are sometimes difficult to resolve because many accounts of what occurred are “he said-she said”, thereby making it difficult to prove who was at fault. Therefore, if you’ve been injured in a parking lot accident, it is very important that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney who will be able to determine whether you have a viable claim.
As you can see, parking lots are rife with the uneducated, the rushed, the oblivious and various obstacles. By learning how to avoid parking lot accidents, you will be able to keep in control of the reins and make it safer for yourself and others.
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