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KU-EHS October Safety Tip: Distracted Parking Lot Driving

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Driving through a parking lot is still driving!

As many as 500 deaths each year occur to drivers and pedestrians in parking lots and parking garages.

As if searching for parking spaces and bargains isn’t distraction enough, a recent poll found that many drivers are texting, talking on the phone and checking their cars’ GPS systems while driving through parking lots and parking garages.

The National Safety Council is urging shoppers to pay attention on Black Friday and during the holiday season while driving in parking lots, because a recent poll found that as many as two-thirds – 66 percent – of drivers say they allow themselves to be distracted while driving through a parking lot.

Given the increased traffic in and around parking lots during the holiday shopping season, the council is urging drivers and pedestrians to exercise additional caution.

“Parking lots are intense driving environments that require both drivers and pedestrians to pay close attention,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “It is discouraging that so many drivers are willing to add distractions to that mix. When you’re in a parking lot, you need to be hyper-vigilant to the risks surrounding you – just because speeds are lower doesn’t mean you are safe.”

On average, more than 50,000 crashes occur in parking lots and parking garages annually, resulting in 500 or more deaths and more than 60,000 injuries. If the national roadway trend is any indication, parking lots may be even riskier this year. Motor vehicle deaths on all roads are up 9 percent through the first six months of the year compared to 2015.

Distracted walking is a serious safety issue, too. From 2001-2011, more than 11,000 pedestrians were seriously injured because they were distracted by their phones. Pedestrian deaths also are on the rise. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found the number of pedestrian deaths jumped more than 9 percent in 2015 compared to 2014 – the highest number since 1996.

Poll respondents said they would program their GPS (63 percent), send or receive emails (50 percent), use social media (52 percent), take a photo or watch videos (49 percent), use a smart watch (43 percent), surf the internet (43 percent) or video chat (42 percent) while driving through parking lots.

Teen drivers were less likely than adults to talk on the phone (60 percent), use a laptop or tablet (29 percent) or watch a TV or movie (33 percent) while driving through a parking lot. However, teens were more likely to groom themselves (59 percent) than adult drivers (53 percent).

In addition to being vigilant, the Council encourages drivers to use advanced driver assistance systems to their advantage. Fifty-one parking lot and parking garage deaths each year occur when drivers are backing up. Using a backup camera and other alerts that are built into cars today can greatly reduce the risk of having a collision.

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