Black Friday tips for parking lot safety

Black Friday, that day-after-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy, is one of the biggest days of the year for bargain hunters.

It’s also a favorite with thieves.

But it doesn’t have to be, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, which is urging shoppers to use caution, especially in parking lots and garages.

With so many additional shoppers, as many as 138 million nationwide this holiday weekend, AAA is also reminding people to watch out for vehicles and pedestrians while navigating through crowded parking lots.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, about 20 percent of all vehicle collisions that result in damage claims occur in parking lots.

The following are AAA’s Black Friday safety tips:

1. Stay on guard in parking lots. Pay attention to where you park, note parking lot signs and markers. Choose a well-lit area to park during early morning hours and at night. When returning to your vehicle, have keys ready in hand and check the car’s interior before entering, using a penlight at night. Report suspicious people or cars.

2. See and be seen. Use your headlights when scouring parking garages for spaces, even during the day. Avoid parking between a pair of of tall SUV’s 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.

3. Stay on track and be alert. Pedestrians should use walkways and crosswalks, if available. If walking in traffic lanes is unavoidable, be alert for cues — including exhaust or reverse lights — that signal a vehicle is about to pull out. When behind the wheel, always be on the lookout for pedestrians, especially small children. It can be difficult to see small children in busy parking lots, who may make quick, unpredictable movements.

4. Thieves like to window shop. Place all shopping bags and valuables in the trunk, including the GPS units and their mounts. It takes a thief just seconds to smash a window and steal your shopping loot.

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