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Don't underestimate the dangers of parking lots

If you made it through the holidays without an accident in a parking lot or indoor parking structure, consider yourself lucky. If you didn't, you're not alone.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), drivers and pedestrians are involved in over 50,000 crashes annually in parking lots and garages. Some 60,000-plus people suffer injuries, and at least 500 are killed in these collisions.

The period between Black Friday and New Year's, when shoppers are out in droves and often more distracted than usual, is the most dangerous time to be in a parking lot (indoor or outdoor). Insurance companies report a noticeable increase in claims during those weeks.

Among the most dangerous distractions for drivers and pedestrians alike in parking lots is cellphone use. People are more likely to talk or text while in a parking lot than they would on the road. When surveyed, two-thirds of drivers said they make phone calls while behind the wheel in parking lots. Close to two-thirds of respondents in an NSC survey admitted to setting their GPS after they'd already begun driving in a parking lot. Over half said they'd read and sent emails and used social media.

While cars aren't moving as quickly in a parking lot as they would be on a road or highway, drivers and pedestrians can still suffer tissue damage, broken bones and more serious injuries in crashes.

Pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to drivers who aren't looking (or if they are themselves distracted by their phones). Over a third of pedestrians who lose their lives in parking lot accidents are hit by drivers who are backing up. Many cars have backup cameras installed, and those are certainly a valuable safety tool. However, drivers need to look in their mirrors and physically turn around and look behind them before backing up to ensure that the coast is clear.

If you suffered injuries in a parking lot crash that was the fault of a negligent, distracted or reckless driver, don't underestimate how serious they might be. It's wise to see a doctor and then to find out what your legal options are for seeking compensation for medical bills and other expenses and damages.

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