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5 Tips to Help You Drive Safely in a Parking Lot

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Parking in the Shade

More than 500 people are killed every year in parking-lot accidents.
Photo: Alex92287

No matter your level of skill, experience, or prudence behind the wheel, parking lots are full of potential safety hazards and danger zones. According to the National Safety Council, more than 500 people are killed and 60,000 injured in parking-lot crashes every year.

Here are five tips for protecting yourself and others as you search for that perfect parking spot.

1. Slow down

Easing up on your gas pedal is a great way to improve parking-lot safety. We’ve all encountered those drivers who zoom through parking lots like they’re still on the interstate, but even speeds of 20 or 30 mph. Make sure you’re following posted speed limits. In the absence of any signs, it’s a good idea to drive no faster than 5 to 10 mph.

2. Follow the rules

Keep your eyes open and follow traffic signs and pavement markings just as you would on a street. Even more important, follow lanes of traffic where possible and don’t cut diagonally across lots. If you maintain predictable driving patterns, you’re much less likely to hit a pedestrian or another driver.

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3. Minimize distractions

It should go without saying: Using your cellphone while driving (or walking!) in a parking lot is an extremely bad idea. Your focus needs to be on your surroundings and not on texts, calls, or any other distractions. Even if you think you can multitask, it only takes a split-second for things to go very wrong.

4. Stay alert when backing out

Backing out of a parking space is a risky maneuver. About 300 deaths and 18,000 injuries are caused each year by drivers who are backing out of driveways and parking lots. If you’re backing up, stay alert for pedestrians and other drivers. If your car is equipped with a backup camera or a rear cross-traffic alert system, take advantage of those tools. According to the AAA, your safest option — when possible — is backing into a parking spot or pulling through so you can exit while facing forward.

5. Be patient

Yes, navigating a parking lot can be frustrating and infuriating — pedestrians dart in front of you, other drivers cut you off or block the way, and there’s always the risk of someone backing out and denting your fender. Take a deep breath. The more calm and patience you can muster, the less likely you are to cause a collision or hit a pedestrian.

Related: The future of self-driving cars

News Sources: National Safety Council (one and two), Automotive Fleet, Vox