After sitting in heavy traffic or navigating busy roads, many drivers relax once they enter a parking area. You might think that because motorists have to drive slower in parking lots, there must be fewer accidents. But thousands of car accidents happen in parking lots every year in the United States, resulting in thousands of injuries.
Here’s why accidents in parking areas are so common and how you can practice car safety to stay accident-free.
Parking lot accident statistics
You might be surprised to learn that 20 percent of car accidents happen in parking lots and garages, CBS News reports. This accounts for about 50,000 car accidents per year, thousands of injuries, and hundreds of deaths. It can be difficult to fathom how people can die in parking lot accidents because cars are usually traveling at much slower speeds than on roads.
Many deaths from parking lot accidents occur because of a car backing into pedestrians. The National Safety Council estimates 9 percent of parking lot deaths occur while a car is reversing. Many of those pedestrians are small children, infants in strollers, or older adults. NBC News reports that around 2,000 children under the age of 14 were injured in parking lot accidents in 2007, and 99 children died.
Clearly, parking area accidents are more serious than many realize. And most, if not all, are preventable.
Why are parking lot accidents so common?
Parking lot accidents are common mostly because drivers let their guard down. Many use a cell phone or engage in grooming habits while driving in parking lots, resulting in reduced focus and a greater likelihood of accidents. In fact, according to a National Safety Council poll, 66 percent of drivers said they would make phone calls while driving in parking areas. Sixty-three percent stated they would program a GPS app during this time, and 50 percent said they would send or receive emails. Phones definitely cause major distractions for drivers in parking lots. But other actions can also increase the incidence of accidents.
Another cause is general reckless driving, like cutting across parking spaces, disobeying stop signs, and driving too fast. Many drivers are also so focused on beating others to a particular parking spot that they fail to take basic precautions.
How to reduce your chances of a parking lot accident
Although accidents happen every day, you can do several things to reduce your chances of being involved in one. For starters, program your GPS apps before you begin driving, and refrain from checking emails, sending texts, or browsing social media while navigating a parking lot. If you don’t need GPS to get to your next destination, leave your cell phone in a purse or backpack out of sight and reach. This can reduce your temptation for a “quick check” of texts and emails at traffic lights or in parking lots.
Since 2018, car manufacturers have been required to install backup cameras in their vehicles to help drivers safely reverse out of driveways and parking spaces. If your vehicle doesn’t have a backup camera, you can easily install one yourself. Many brands make backup cameras that are simple and quick to install, and some don’t cost more than $100. Though drivers must watch for pedestrians behind them, it’s also critical that pedestrians remain alert and avoid strolling through parking areas while distracted and looking at their cell phones too.
Parking lots might not seem particularly dangerous, but they still require vigilance from drivers and pedestrians alike.