01 May Why This Might Be the Riskiest Part of Your Day
Parking is one of a fleet driver’s most routine daily activities. But it can be one of the most hazardous — 1 in 5 reported vehicle crashes occur in a parking lot. There are steps drivers can take to avoid adding to this statistic.
Parking — it’s an activity that gives few of us pause. But maybe it should. According to 2016 CEI data, parking-related accidents are among the five most common accident types for fleet drivers. In total about 20% of all vehicle accidents occur in parking lots, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Looking at the big picture, it’s easy to see why. Parking lots are complex vehicle eco-systems filled with numerous stress-inducing variables: pedestrians (including children), shopping carts, one-way roadways turning from or onto two-way roadways, traffic controls, debris (shopping bags, trash), not to mention drivers stressed and/or distracted by any of these variables in their quest for the perfect parking spot.
So how do you park safely and get away unscathed? The answer in a nutshell is by remaining calm and focused.
- Entering the Parking Lot
When you leave a public road and enter a parking lot, it doesn’t mean you should stop using all the skills used to safely drive to your destination. In some ways, because of all the variables (including pedestrians) you have to be even more alert than you would be on the road.
The key to safely navigating a parking lot is to stay focused and actively scan your surroundings. As you would in a regular traffic situation, look ahead several car lengths for any potentially dangerous situation (a car pulling out of a spot, a shopper with a wriggling child, a delivery or service person loading or unloading materials in a through lane), and be prepared to take action — again, as you would in traffic.
Assume that the other drivers around you are not acting in a safe, calm, focused manner. Employing defensive driving techniques is not a bad strategy when you’re in a busy parking lot situation.
- Parking in a Spot
The choice of a parking spot may be as important as focusing and driving defensively. Ideally, you should be aiming for a pull-through parking spot, entering one spot and pulling through so you end up in the head out position, allowing you to drive forward into traffic when you’re done with your business.
This is the safest spot because in both parking and leaving you’ll be driving forward, and not backing out.
The only time this isn’t the optimal way to park is in a slant or angled parking spot that would have the vehicle in a head out position pointing in the opposite direction of oncoming traffic. It is very dangerous to park head out in this situation because you will not have maximum visibility of oncoming traffic nor will others expect you to turn into traffic.
That being said, more municipalities are implementing head out angled parking (though it does require backing in when parking — since traffic is typically one way). This type of parking is proving to be safer since cars are pulling into traffic in the same direction as the traffic flow.
Can Technology Help?
There are times, however, such as during holidays, when you may have to park in less-than-ideal situations. This often requires pulling head in and having to back out into traffic (or vice versa). It is when backing that many parking lot crashes occur.
Rearview cameras can certainly help with backing, and are particularly helpful in giving a wider picture of the surroundings — since the cameras tend to be wide angle. However, drivers shouldn’t become over reliant on either rearview cameras or cross traffic alert systems. While these devices are generally effective in aiding drivers in backing up safely, in tests, they haven’t proven to be 100% reliable. Instead, they are helpful tools that drivers should use in addition to their own eyes when backing.
Particularly in the busy parking lot situations, drivers should use every tool at their disposal, but ultimately the best tools you have are your eyes and your brain.