(LOS ANGELES, Dec. 18, 2007)- Shoppers seeking to finish up their holiday shopping and holiday mailing of cards and packages this week need to stay alert to avoid fender benders, injuries or thefts that could ruin their holiday spirit, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California
With just a week left before Christmas, the malls, post offices and shippers are expected to be extra busy while motorists purchase gifts or mail cards and gifts in time for the holidays.
"As the countdown to the holidays continues, it may be harder for some people to be patient. This is especially true in mall parking lots, around post offices and also package shipping companies where traffic can be expected to become congested and slow," said Jeff Spring, the Auto Club's public relations manager. "Losing patience, driving aggressively, or not staying alert behind the wheel can result in crashes in parking lots. Pedestrians also need to watch out for vehicles so a shopping trip doesn't turn into a tragedy. And once parked, shoppers need to take steps to avoid becoming theft victims," he added.
The Auto Club offers these tips to help drivers navigate their holiday errands safely:
- Buckle up! Even a low-speed collision can result in injuries. Make sure that everyone is strapped in a seat belt, child safety seat or booster seat while the car is in motion, even if it's a short trip to another part of the parking lot.
- See and be seen. Use your headlights during the daytime so that other drivers will see you and avoid crashes in parking lots and on the streets. Research shows that even in daytime, keeping your headlights on reduces crash risk.
- Exercise caution. Be aware of your surroundings and pay extra attention to the cars around you, especially when you're backing out of your parking space. When behind the wheel, always be on the lookout for pedestrians and hard-to-see children.
- Try the side door. At the mall, everyone wants to park near the stores, especially near the main entrance. But most malls have secondary entrances on the sides, and those entrances usually have less traffic and more convenient spaces.
- Be courteous. Don't be a Grinch and steal a parking space that another motorist-shopper was patiently waiting for. Allow extra time to find a parking space.
- Don't get in a blind spot. Avoid parking between a pair of tall SUVs or minivans where visibility will be difficult when backing out of the space. If you are parked between them, be watchful and back out slowly. Get additional help from one of your passengers, if possible.
- Keep windows clear. Make sure your defroster or defogger is working properly. Make sure your windows are clear before backing out of your parking spot. To help, be sure that packages, winter coats and other items don't interfere with your line of sight
- Move it. Remove shopping carts that might accidentally get pushed into your car. These losses are considered insurance losses and your deductible would have to be paid - by you.
- Get the vital statistics. In the event of a crash, be sure to obtain the names, addresses, telephone numbers, insurance carriers and policy numbers of the other motorists.
- Be extra careful and don't argue. Carry your purse under your arm. Keep a wallet in an inside jacket pocket, not a back trouser pocket. Note any strangers approaching you. If someone approaches you in the parking lot with a weapon and demands your wallet, purse or car, comply. Loss of these items isn't worth your health, safety or your life.
While Walking In the Parking Lot
- Look out for little ones. Children can be hard to see in busy parking lots and often make quick, unpredictable movements. When walking to and from the car, hold their hands to keep them safe from traffic.
- Stay "on track" and alert on foot. Pedestrians should use walkways and crosswalks, if available. If you must walk in the traffic lanes, be alert for cues - such as car exhaust or reverse lights - that signal a car is about to pull out. When behind the wheel, always be on the lookout for pedestrians and hard-to-see children.
- Be prepared. Anticipate that the malls will become busier with last minute holiday shoppers. Remember it may be easier to park further away than closer to shops. If it's nighttime, park in a well-lit area. Shop in the evenings or when stores open early in the morning. Even if you're rushed, stay alert to your surroundings. Have your keys in your hand before you head out to go to your car. Scan the interior of your car to make sure no one is hiding inside.
- Conceal your purchases. Don't set yourself up for a vehicle break-in by leaving your purse, wallet, packages or other valuables in view while your car is parked or while you're driving. Put packages and shopping bags in the trunk. Keep your vehicle's doors locked and windows closed.