When most drivers think of car accidents, they wince at the thought of high-speed collisions on crowded highways. While speed plays a role in a large number of accidents each year, drivers may be surprised to discover that 20 percent of all motor vehicle accidents actually occur in parking lots, according to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. As an SUV driver who collided with a bus in a recent Florida parking lot collision learned that until drivers and passengers exit the car, they are still at risk for accidents.
Common causes of parking pileups
The combination of slower speeds and the perception that the destination has already been reached — despite the fact the vehicle is still being driven — can lead drivers to be less aware and alert as they navigate parking lots, garages and ramps. Other factors that contribute to the proliferation of accidents in these areas include:
- Carelessness and the notion that reckless driving is somehow acceptable since parking lots are private property
- Congestion created by high concentrations of drivers searching for available spaces
- Blind spots, obstructed views and difficulty seeing created by the need to back out of parking spots and into the flow of lot traffic
In Florida, traffic laws do not in fact apply in parking lots, since lots are private property that belong to the owner of the premises. Regardless, the police should be called, and all accident participants should file the necessary reports with law enforcement agencies and insurance companies. Legal issues related to fault and reasonable care still apply, as do premises liability issues that may implicate the property owner.
Accident avoidance strategies
The best advice drivers can follow in order to avoid accidents in parking lots is to simply reduce their speed so they have adequate response time to react to other drivers. Another important factor is to remember that parking lots are full of far more pedestrians than regular streets, which requires drivers to be ready for unexpected human obstacles in the roadway. And, drivers should exercise extra caution when rounding corners and should always drive defensively in parking lots.
Finally, those involved in parking lot collisions often need the advice and representation of competent legal counsel.