Parking lots occasionally unsafe areas

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Oh, how I love to shop. Oh, how I love to travel. Oh, how I love to shop and travel. I don't love parking lots, though.

Sometimes parking lots are worse than a packed interstate. At least on the interstate, I can weave in and out of the traffic and adjust my speed to avoid some of the madness out there. Not so with parking lots. The vehicles are too close to mine. The parking spots are never at the right angle to enter or back out of. People are walking everywhere. Baskets are rolling around like marbles, and I'm usually thinking of a million other things while I'm attempting to arrive or leave.

Seems I'm not alone with the distractions issue, either. Just look around you next time you're in a parking lot. Inevitably, someone in the vehicle next to you is checking their phone, talking to their navigation system, or correcting their children. I'm just as guilty as the next person.

On the other end of things, pedestrians may be distracted, too, by checking their cell phones, talking to their companion, or correcting their children. This can become a double whammy when you begin to back up from your parking space. It's a picture we don't want to paint in the real world. But, it does happen. It happens much too often.

So much so that the National Safety Council boasts that "more than 50,000 crashes occur in parking lots and garage structures annually, resulting in 500 or more deaths and more than 60,000 injuries." Plus, we all know that many fender-benders go unreported.

The website Safety.BLR.com is just one of a number of resources on the web that offers parking lot safety tips. A few of theirs that I find worth repeating include the suggestion that drivers should "do everything you need to do (adjusting seat, mirrors, etc.) before you exist the parking space," "when walking in a parking lot, stay to the sides of the aisle and watch for cars. Do not talk on the phone or use headphones in a parking lot," and "Obey parking lot speed limits and lane designations; don't cut diagonally across the lot."

So, now, let me add a few more tips that could help us avoid accidents in parking lots. Drive defensively - yes, even in parking lots. Try to anticipate the action of others and safely move out of their way. We noted earlier about watching for pedestrians, but we also need to pay extra attention to small children, children in strollers, and others who might be significantly shorter than our vehicle mirrors.

Be proactive and conduct a quick walk around your entire vehicle. Even if you have a backup camera on your vehicle, use your mirrors and look over your shoulder while backing. Better yet, pull though when you park, if it works with the flow of traffic, and you won't need to back out.

We can't forget about another kind of parking lot safety this week: personal safety related to crime. I'll bet you've heard some great safety tips about parking near a light, close to the store, locking your doors and keeping purchases out of sight in your vehicle.

Now, practice these tips, shop 'til you drop, and as always, Be Safe (in that parking lot) Out There.

Shelly Butts is Emergency Management coordinator for Madison County.

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