CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Hundreds of people will be flocking to stores and shopping centers on this Black Friday.
While shoppers are thinking about all the deals they will be getting, they also need to exercise caution to avoid Black Friday parking lot accidents.
Auto insurers say the number of claims jump on Black Friday, and run above normal throughout the holiday shopping season.
While Black Friday shopping may bring exciting deals and the fun of finding a bargain, the traffic and parking lot accidents spike close to 40 percent during this time of year.
“The number of accidents and incidents increase this weekend simply because of the numbers," said insurance agent Ed Cantu. "A lot more traffic, a lot more people out there, and so you are more likely going to have an incident happen."
If you do get into a fender-bender on private property, remember the police department will not investigate the accident.
“So basically you just have to settle it with the individual you hit or that hit you," Cantu said. "Exchange information and contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Don’t wait because the longer you wait the more likelihood, all of a sudden, the story is going to change. And another thing too, if there are witnesses get their information as well so they can speak on your behalf."
One of the most common causes of parking lot accidents and injuries is distracted driving.
“Make sure that you are aware of your surroundings, make sure you are not driving and texting, and you are not doing things that will distract you from driving," Cantu said. "There are a lot of people that are texting and driving; they are on their phones when they are driving and not paying attention. So you really have to be defensive while you are physically on the road."
Car accidents are not the only hazard you may encounter during the holiday season. Theft of property is also a concern.
“If somebody breaks into your vehicle, and they steal items out of your vehicle, there are two separate policies involved; the home and homeowner's policy covers the property they may have stolen out of your vehicle," Cantu said. "And then your vehicle gets damaged, like a window gets broken, then that is protected by your car policy."
The National Safety Council says 50,000 car accidents happen in parking lots every year.
If you walk out and see your car is damaged, here are some steps you can take:
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 few other things you can do to try and 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:
- Drive slowly.
- Stay alert for cars and pedestrians cutting across parking lanes.
- Use turn signals for the benefit of other drivers and pedestrians.
- Choose a parking space where you can pull forward to leave the space instead of backing out.
- Choose a parking space at the end of a row, next to an island or in front of a light pole when possible to protect your car.
- Don't park in a compact space if you're not driving a compact car – and never take up two spaces by parking over a line.
- Look 180 degrees in both directions before backing out of a parking space instead of relying on a mirror or rearview camera.
- Park in spots farther away from a store because it may be easier to avoid traffic.