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The Hidden Dangers of Parking Lot Accidents

Along with the holidays and the joy of being around the people you love comes the shopping, the rushing, the crowds, the spending, and the general overdoing it, whether it’s shopping or eating.

While you carry on your busy day, pay special attention to the dangers present in most parking lots and even parking garages.

These areas are riskier than you think and every year tens of thousands of crashes occur injuring and even killing pedestrians. Around the holidays these numbers increase, according to the insurance industry, especially on Black Friday.

The actual numbers are probably even higher than reported because many people do not want to report fender benders on the chance their insurance rates may increase.

Nationally, there are more than 50,000 crashes in parking lots and garages every year that result in more than 500 deaths and 60,000 injuries, according to the National Safety Council.

Stay Safe in Parking Lots

Some of the blame is on the parking lot design itself. There are no stop signs and generally you proceed at your own risk. People may feel at ease with no traffic lights or signs and may not be thinking about pedestrians. Maybe they think of the parking lot as a time to place a call or check their phone.

Maybe there are kids in the back seat who are acting up.  Maybe the cell phone spilled on the floor of the car, along with some hot coffee. Maybe the driver didn’t get enough sleep last night.

Holiday sales bring out all sort of folks who are under stress and/or who may not be experienced drivers.

Whatever the reason, there are some things pedestrians can do when walking in a parking lot to keep them and their loved ones safe.

When walking be sure to:

* Park as closely as you can to the door of the store. That may mean that you go at hours that are the least crowded such as early morning.

* Keep eye contact with drivers as much as possible and keep your head up in general, not looking down at your phone.

* Leave children or distractions behind as much as possible.  The University of Alabama Birmingham found 67% of children ages 2 to 10 in a parking lot were unsupervised. That may include running ahead or darting out of a vehicle.

Nationally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that in one year, 5,000 children under the age of 14 were injured and 205 killed in parking lots, driveways, and private property.

* Watch for drivers who are about to back up. Practice defensive walking and look at tail lights and follow someone who just entered the drivers’ side.

* Criminals too understand that there are easy pedestrian targets in a parking lot during the holidays. Stay close to the store, walk with others, and choose places that are well-lit. When putting packages in the car, be sure to store them out of sight such as in the trunk.

When driving be sure to:

Are you likely to view parking lot time as downtime where you relax behind the wheel?  Do not.  The already hectic holidays combined with extra cars and pedestrians in parking lots are a formula for injury.

  • The National Safety Council reports 66% of drivers say they will place a call in a parking lot, text, or check their GPS. Teens are more likely to be personally grooming. About 49% of people take photos or watch videos while driving through a parking lot.

  • Keep your eyes on the rear of your car when you are about to back up. Turn your body around to check both sides and do not just rely on the rearview mirrors understanding that have reduced vision especially of smaller people.

  • Drive slowly and not distracted. Driving in a parking lot is not time to check your phone, your makeup, or your directions.  Keep vigilant and aware and drive defensively.

  • If you have your eye on a parking space, do not let down your guard.  The focus can distract you from defensive driving.

Please avoid cutting across lots, drive slowly and use your directional signals. Be mindful that there can be small children behind your car who you cannot see.

We hope you have safe and joyful holidays and don’t let the stress of the season get to you or cause you to lower your defenses. 

If you have an unfortunate accident during the holidays, or anytime, understand that Mann & Potter is here to help. To schedule your free case consultation at our Birmingham office, message us online or call us today at 205-627-3186.

Back to School: Avoiding Accidents with School Buses

Summer has come to a close and Fall is now in full swing. This means that millions of kids in Alabama and throughout the country are back in school. We all want our kids to learn and succeed in school, and this starts with creating an environment where they can get to and from school safely.

School buses are the most common way Alabama children travel to and from school. There are more than 8,200 buses that service school districts throughout the state, and more than 375,000 kids ride them each day.

Buses are a relatively safe way for school kids to travel. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), children are 70 times more likely to arrive at school safely when traveling by bus rather than traveling by car. In addition, school bus fatalities account for less than 1% of all traffic related fatalities each year.

Although school buses are safer than most other modes of transportation, accidents still happen from time to time. Oftentimes, the risk is not so much that a child riding inside the bus will be hurt, but more so that they might get hurt when they are outside the bus. There is also the risk of serious injury to other motorists who collide with school buses, like what happened to the 17-year old high school student who was severely injured and later died when his car crashed into a school bus in August near Phenix City, AL.

If we all do our part, tragedies like these can be prevented, and we can help ensure that our kids have a safe and successful school year. Toward that end, here are five things that we as drivers can do to avoid accidents with school buses:

  1. Avoid Distracted Driving

The morning and evening rush hours can be hectic times of the day to drive. Drivers are often stuck in heavy traffic and in a hurry to get to work. On top of that, you may be trying to finish your morning coffee while you drive and respond to the latest text from your boss or coworker who needs something. This, unfortunately, is the world we live in. But that is no excuse to drive unsafely and put yourself and others in danger. 

Always give yourself plenty of time to get to work in the morning, and do not respond to texts and other electronic notifications from your cellphone. Most of these messages can wait, and if there is something you absolutely need to respond to, pull over in a safe spot and put your car in park first before sending your response.

  • Watch for Children Walking and Biking to School

Not all school kids ride the bus. Some who live closer to their school choose to walk or ride their bikes. From the moment you back out of your driveway, you need to be on the lookout for young pedestrians and bicyclists. This is especially true when you are driving through school zones.

  • Watch for Children Approaching Bus Stops

Along the same lines as the previous point, when you are driving near a bus stop, watch out for kids who are walking to the stop or already there waiting for the bus. Children are unpredictable, especially younger children, and you never know when a child will dash across the street trying to catch the bus or when they end up on the streets while just playing around with friends.

  • Drive Slowly when you are Behind a School Bus

You need drive slowly not only when there are kids nearby walking or riding their bikes, but also when you end up behind a school bus. Buses slow down and stop frequently to pick up and drop off kids, and they are also required to come to a complete stop at railroad crossings.  Proceed with caution when you are behind a bus, and always give them plenty of room to complete their stops safely.

  • Always Obey Alabama School Bus Laws

In most cases, you are not allowed to pass a stopped school or church bus in Alabama. If you are behind either type of bus or approaching it from the other direction, you are required to stop as soon as the bus raises its signal arm and remain stopped until the signal arm is lowered.  The only exception to this rule is when you are approaching a bus from the other direction on a divided four or six lane highway that contains a barrier or unpaved area which divides the directional lanes.

The state of Alabama does not look kindly on drivers who disobey school bus laws. Penalties for passing a school bus illegally start at $150 to $300 along with points on your driving record and higher insurance rates for a first offense. Multiple offenders face higher fines, loss of driving privileges, community service requirements, and other consequences. Many school districts have installed stop-arm cameras to catch offenders, so it is never a good idea to take a chance and disobey these rules.

Injured in a School Bus Accident in Alabama? Contact a Seasoned Vehicle Accident Lawyer

Even if you do your best to drive safely, bus accidents can still happen because of the negligent actions or omissions of other parties. If you or a loved one suffered injury in an auto accident in Alabama that was someone else’s fault, you need strong legal counsel by your side advocating forcefully for your rights and interests.

To schedule a free consultation and case assessment with one of the experienced attorneys at Mann & Potter, call us today at 205-879-9661, message us online, or stop by our Birmingham office at your convenience.