The thrill of a bargain may cause drivers to lose their holiday cheer when searching for a parking stall during holiday shopping.
AAA East Central offers tips to keep shoppers safe and their "sleighs" intact for the rest of the season.
"People know to be concerned about safety on highways and neighborhood streets, but they forget to be on alert in parking lots," said Lori Cook, AAA Safety Advisor. "Crashes happen frequently in parking lots and have the potential to be quite dangerous, particularly for pedestrians."
AAA offers the following tips to help motorists navigate the parking lot and make better, safer decisions to protect their cars and themselves:
• Park at the Side Entrance: At the mall, everyone wants to park near the stores, especially near the main entrance. But most malls have secondary entrances on the sides, and those entrances usually have less traffic and more convenient spaces.
Walk off the Holiday Cookies - Outlying areas have more spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision. Plus, it doesn't hurt any of us to walk off holiday treats. In some cases, however, those spaces may not be as secure, so be aware of the risks. Outlying spaces are sometimes a foot narrower than their more convenient counterparts, so using these spaces can mean a dinged door or difficulty pulling in and out.
• Be Visible: Use your headlights when scouring parking garages for spaces -- even in the daytime. The light will let other cars see you coming around turns and can make fitting into that tight parking space a little easier. Research shows that, even in the daytime, keeping your headlights on reduce your crash risk.
• Don't Put Yourself in a Tight Spot: Avoid parking between a pair of tall SUVs or minivans where it might be hard for you to back out of the space. If you can't see well enough to back out safely, get help from one of your passengers.
•Avoid Using Reverse: If possible, avoid backing out of a space by either backing into it or "pulling through" two spaces that are open nose-to-nose. In some municipalities, however, backing into spaces amid moving traffic is illegal and, by impeding traffic flow, can do more harm than good.
• Look Out for Little Ones: Children can be hard to see in busy parking lots and often make quick, unpredictable movements. When walking to and from the car, hold their hands to keep them safe in traffic.
• Don't Cut Across the Lot: Watch for cars cutting diagonally across lots and do not follow their example. Drive slowly and use your turn signal.
• Use the Entire Space: Be sure to pull your car all the way into your parking space to avoid having the rear end clipped by passing cars.
• Buckle Up: Even a low-speed collision can result in injuries. Make sure that everyone is strapped in a seat belt or child seat while the car is in motion, even if it's just a short trip to another part of the parking lot.
• Don't let the Grinch steal your gifts: Place packages and shopping bags in the trunk so they are not visible to would-be thieves. It takes a thief just seconds to smash a window and steal your shopping loot.
"Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings," said Cook. "The holidays are a busy time for everyone, but remember when you're behind the wheel; your focus should be on driving - whether you're on the highway or in the parking lot."
AAA East Central is a not-for-profit organization with 82 local offices in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and New York, servicing 2.7 million members.