Written by Roger Still, Transportation Safety Manager 

If you answered: “The parking lots and yards at ours and our customer’s facilities,” then you’re right. 

Mishaps in these areas can cause more damage to our fleet than anything else, and the potential for personal injuries is much higher. In 2016, the State of Illinois estimated that the injury rate for pedestrians at 96 percent when involved in an incident with a vehicle.

Distracted driving is the main reason for parking lot accidents. The National Safety Council reported that “…one in five accidents happen in parking lots, and as many as two-thirds of drivers in parking lots may be distracted.” 

Our yards and parking lots are bustling areas and require even more attention to detail and situational awareness than driving on the roadways. It is important to note that situational awareness—defined as being aware of one’s surroundings—is more of a mindset than a learned skill. 

Recognizing that Threats Exist

The primary element in establishing this mindset is first to recognize that threats exist. Ignorance or denial of a threat makes a person’s chances of quickly recognizing an emerging threat and avoiding it highly unlikely. Bad things do happen. We all know how dangerous it is to lose focus while proceeding through a busy intersection or cruising down a highway, but it’s all too easy to overlook how reckless it is to divert our attention in our parking lots.  

Both drivers and pedestrians may assume that parking lots are relatively safe because vehicles aren’t traveling at high speed. It’s easy to feel like you’ve arrived safely at your destination once you reach the parking lot—but nothing could be further from the truth. Make sure you keep your focus on your immediate surroundings and maintain your situational awareness until your vehicle is completely stationary in a parking spot. 

Many factors could potentially lead to a collision in a parking lot or surface lot.

Increased concentration of pedestrian traffic

Many pedestrians are distracted by their phones, aren’t using marked crosswalks, or are assuming that the driver sees them

Negligent drivers speeding through warehouse yards and parking lots

This is because they are lulled into a false sense of security that parking lots are their safe environment.

Drivers getting complacent in their familiar areas

Drivers may not be paying attention to their surroundings and/or failure to abide by posted traffic signs and protective barriers/posts in the lot.

Lack of visibility around parked vehicles and trailers

This is a challenge, especially while performing slow speed maneuvers such as turning or backing.

Remember your Smith System 5 Keys—they are even more critical in parking areas and warehouse yards.

Remember: Head on a swivel and keep your eyes moving.

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