During the holidays, parking lots at malls, shopping centers, and supermarkets are packed, increasing the possibility of a fender bender. It’s a very common situation. Parking lot accidents increase by 20 percent during the busy holiday season.
The holidays create a perfect storm for accidents, especially in busy, congested parking lots.
“They’re so many vehicles on the road and in the parking lots. You add more vehicles and people, accidents are bound to occur,” said CCPD Lt. Timothy Frazier.
With all this activity and chaos in a small area, it's no wonder that many car accidents happen in parking lots.
“Move your vehicles out of the way. Because you are going to start causing a traffic jam, and a lot of times traffic jams that are occurring in the parking lots bleed out into the streets, and once it bleeds out into the streets, we are going to cause more crashes,” said Lt. Frazier.
If you do get into a fender bender on private property, remember the police department will not investigate the accident. But they will come out if you need assistance exchanging information.
“If the other party does not want to exchange information, at that point, you definitely want to call us because we will facilitate that. Because that is a violation of the law if you don’t exchange information, you are breaking the law and that is when we come in. Usually when they’re not willing to exchange information, it's because they don’t have insurance or have a suspended license or they have warrants, and they really don’t want the police to come out,” said Lt. Frazier.
The National Safety Council says 50,000 car accidents happen in parking lots every year.
Here are some steps you can take if your car is damaged:
IF YOU’RE THE DRIVER
Don’t drive away—if another customer or a surveillance camera spots you, you could be punished for a hit-and-run.
Track down the other car’s owner. Head into the store and speak to someone at the customer service desk. Describe the car to the employee, and have him or her announce it over the store’s loudspeaker.
Leave a note. If you’re unable to find the other driver, jot down basic information—your name, phone number and a brief explanation of the accident—and place it in a secure spot on the car. Write down the license plate number and take a photo of the damage if you have a camera with you.
Call the police. Depending on how extensive the damage is, you may want to involve the police. They’ll document the accident and they can help you find the other car’s owner.
IF YOU’RE THE VICTIM
Contact your insurance agent. Let him or her know what happened as soon as possible. Your agent will help you determine the next steps.
Record evidence. Take pictures of the damage with your phone or a camera, if you have one on hand.
Take thorough notes. If the other driver is still around, jot down his or her name, address, phone number, driver’s license number and insurance company. Gather as much information as possible.
Get backup. Ask others in the parking lot if they witnessed anything. Also head back into the store and find out if they have security camera footage you can check.
IF YOU’RE THE WITNESS
Provide assistance. If the offending driver is gone, help the other driver document the damage. Give the driver your contact information, in case his or her insurance agent or the police need to contact you for further comment.
A couple of other things you can do to try avoid an accident in the parking lot. Slow down, and park away, toward the end of the parking lot where there’s plenty of space.
How to avoid a parking lot car accident:
To avoid getting into a parking lot car accident in the first place, keep these tips in mind: