You’ve finally reached your destination after overcoming heavy traffic, poor weather conditions, and an emergency road repair. As you pull into the parking lot, you take a deep breath of relief, unaware you are now embarking on one of the riskier parts of your trip—getting from the parking lot to the building.
Twenty percent of all reported vehicle accidents occur in parking lots, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Nationwide, there are on average over 50,000 vehicle accidents in parking lots annually, resulting in 60,000 injuries and 500 deaths, according to the National Safety Council. The actual number of accidents may be higher, since many collisions in parking lots go unreported because they involve only property damage.
NBC News in Washington reported a sadly typical case on January 28, 2018. Sang-A Park was a 27-year-old post-doctoral fellow from South Korea working at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. She died after being hit by a vehicle in the campus parking lot.
Accidents in New Jersey Parking Lots
There were 480 vehicle-pedestrian collisions in parking facilities in 45 of New Jersey’s 550 municipalities according to a three-year study, “Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety in Parking Facilities” by the Institute of Transportation Engineers. These parking lot collisions accounted for 17% of all vehicle-pedestrian collisions studied. In addition:
- 73% of the vehicle-pedestrian collisions occurred in retail destinations: shopping centers, big-box retailers, and grocery stores, in that order.
- 40% of the parking lot accidents occurred between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. An additional 30% of the parking lot accidents occurred between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
- 50% of the parking lot accidents occurred in parking aisles. An additional 20% of the parking lot accidents occurred on frontage roads to buildings accessed through the parking lot.
- 33% of collisions occurred while at least one vehicle was backing up. An additional 15% of collisions occurred while a vehicle was turning left.
Where you are going; the time of day; where you are driving in the parking lot; and how you are maneuvering your vehicle all have a significant bearing on the likelihood of being involved in a parking lot accident.
Causes of Parking Lot Accidents
Simple inattentiveness by both drivers and pedestrians is a core cause of parking lot accidents.
The lower speed limits in parking lots can lull both drivers and pedestrians into a false sense of security. Lower speeds make it seem like a driver has more reaction time. However, that is true only if the driver remains vigilant. Inattentiveness can quickly consume the additional margin for reaction time provided by slower speeds. Similarly, drivers assume that reduced speeds equate to lesser injuries for pedestrians—but they don’t always.
Drivers are on a short-term mission while in a parking lot. Either find a parking space, or exit the parking lot ahead of competing drivers. When drivers are focused on those two things, they lose situational awareness, and fail to notice a pedestrian in the parking lot.
Both drivers and pedestrians in parking lots tempt fate by using their cell phones, which guarantee they’ll become distracted.
Congestion in parking lots is common. Mixing automobile and pedestrian traffic in close proximity contributes to further congestion. This makes navigating a parking lot more difficult and increases the probability of accidents involving automobiles and pedestrians.
Traffic laws do not apply on the private property of parking lots. As a result, drivers are more likely to ignore traffic signs and lane markers because they do not have the same legal authority as those appearing on public streets and highways.
Safety Tips to Avoid Parking Lot Accidents
- Pay attention. Do not drive or walk while distracted.
- Expect the unexpected, since parking lots mix cars and pedestrians in areas that are narrow, congested, or poorly lit.
- Slow down. A five-mile-an-hour speed will give you time to react to other vehicles and pedestrians.
- Comply with all posted signs.
- Park away from the entrance where there is less congestion.
- Signal your intentions.
- Make eye contact with oncoming drivers or pedestrians to assure they have seen you.
- Walk on the edge of aisles, not in the middle.
If you have been involved in a parking lot accident, you may be entitled to compensation, but you need an experienced New Jersey pedestrian accident attorney to help you get it. Both pedestrians and drivers are responsible to keep each other safe in New Jersey. If you have been hurt, call us at Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., at (609) 240-0040. We will fight to get you any compensation you may be entitled to receive.