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Avoid holiday parking-lot crashes and costs

The holiday shopping season means that malls and mall parking lots will be packed with hurried and distracted shoppers.

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Parking-lot collisions account for as many as one in five auto insurance claims yearly, according to the Independent Insurance Agents of America (IIAA), and the packed lots you'll see during the Christmas season are prime territory for negligent drivers, burglars, pickpockets, carjackers, and vandals. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of crimes committed at shopping facilities occur in parking lots.

The true cost of parking-lot fender benders could be twice as high as the numbers suggest. "For every motorist who files a parking-lot accident insurance claim, there is another who pays the repair costs out of his own pocket because he doesn't have the proper auto insurance, or because he feels it is more affordable over the long run than paying a higher insurance premium," says Madelyn Flanagan of the IIAA.

How can you protect yourself and your car from damage this holiday season? Following these helpful safety tips is a good start:

  • Watch for cars cutting diagonally across lots and don't follow their example! Drive slowly and use your turn signal.
  • Be extra careful when backing out of spots. Be aware of cars waiting to get your spot, others who are backing out at the same time, and reckless drivers who speed through lanes.
  • Beware when mailing gifts and greeting cards this holiday season. Post Office parking lots have the highest number of accidents due to high customer turnover.
  • Don't park between spots, especially in busy lots. The makeshift spot may get you closer to the shopping, but possibly at the expense of retribution from fellow shoppers in the form of dented doors.
  • During the day, park away from buildings to help avoid dings and dents from car doors, runaway shopping carts, or vandals. At night, avoid such secluded areas for obvious reasons.
  • Park in well-lit areas and complain to management if there are no adequately lit areas available. Management could be liable for personal injury in such cases.
  • Ask mall security to walk you to your car if you don't feel safe. They'll do it.
  • Always make sure you've rolled up your car windows and locked your doors.
  • Have your keys ready as you approach your car and check the back seat and under your car before getting in.
  • Keep all shopping bags out of the view of thieves.
  • Review all of your insurance coverage with your agent. Liability will protect you if you hit another motorist, collision covers damage to your car in hit-and-run cases, and comprehensive will cover damage by vandals, or the theft of your vehicle.

Source: Independent Insurance Agents of America

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