Experts warn shoppers of holiday parking dangers


As parking lots fill with holiday shoppers, the increased traffic also means an increased risk of collisions and theft. This time of year, it’s more important than ever for shoppers to take precautions to prevent parking lot mishaps.

Back-up Dangers:

An estimated 292 people are killed and 18,000 are injured each year by drivers who back into them, usually in driveways or parking lots, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A new survey finds 76 percent of American drivers frequently park their vehicle by pulling forward into a parking spot. Driver training experts say parking this way puts pedestrians in danger when the driver later backs out of the spot and into the traffic lane.

Automakers have tried to reduce risk by adding rear-view cameras and alert systems to vehicles. Rear-view cameras, which are required on all new vehicles by 2018, can improve visibility, but do not show 100 percent of the space behind the vehicle and become blurry when covered by rain, snow or slush.

A new study by AAA and the Automobile Club of Southern California found systems designed to alert drivers to traffic passing behind their reversing vehicle have significant limitations when parked between larger vehicles. In these instances, the tested systems failed to detect

a motorcycle 48 percent of the time,

a bicycle 40 percent of the time,

a vehicle 30 percent of the time, and

pedestrians 60 percent of the time.

“It’s critical that drivers reverse slowly and use this technology as an aid to, not a substitute for, safe driving,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center.

Driver training experts recommend backing into a space, whenever possible, to maximize visibility and minimize the chances of backing into a pedestrian, cyclist or other vehicle.

Stealing Holiday Joy:

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Unified Crime Reporting Program, nearly 228,000 larceny-thefts occurred in Ohio during 2014. In the Midwest, nearly 19 percent of these thefts occurred from motor vehicles. This type of theft is a major concern, especially during the holiday shopping.

Insurance experts encourage consumers to stay vigilant and take the following steps to prevent theft:

* Don’t leave valuables in plain sight: Lock holiday gifts and other valuables in your trunk. When at home, close curtains and blinds when leaving.

* Park under a light: This will help deter thieves and will also help you check to make sure nobody is lurking in or near your vehicle.

* Avoid idle time in parking lot: Lock your car as soon as you get in and drive away as soon as possible.

* Stay alert: It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday excitement, but it’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times to avoid becoming a target for thieves.

* If theft does occur, a homeowners or renters insurance policy can help replace what’s lost, even if the theft occurred outside the home. Most standard homeowners and renters policies ensure the same personal property coverage away from home as they do at home. Policyholders must present receipts or some proof of stolen items to receive reimbursement.

Staff report

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