Local police seeing uptick in parking lot accidents as shopping season gets underway

Cars fill the parking lot of a Costco store, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in Seattle. Health authorities say chicken salad from Costco has been linked to at least one case of E. coli in Washington state.  (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Cars fill the parking lot of a Costco store, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in Seattle. Health authorities say chicken salad from Costco has been linked to at least one case of E. coli in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — In just a few days, retailers begin their most profitable time of year as the holiday shopping season gets underway. While it’s great for stores, it can be dangerous for drivers.

“Oh they get crazy,” said Penny Huber, a holiday shopper hitting the stores early. “This one gets really really bad.”

“Parking gets to be a competitive sport,” said Richelle Tordoff, who is shopping at Walmart.

We spent a few hours in local lots observing the parking trends ahead of the holiday season, already catching several cars whizzing through them or idling unaware.

“It gets a little nuts,” said Tordoff. “People aren’t very careful when they’re trying to find spots.”

The National Safety Council finds, on average, more than 500 people and more than 60,000 are injured every year in upward of 50,000 crashes in parking lots and garages.  Local police say that’s a number that’s increases particularly during the holiday season.

“We will have cars backed up all over the place,” Chief Mark Pacholec with the Orchard Park Police. “That’s just the nature of putting a lot of vehicles and a lot of pedestrians in a congested area in a short period of time.”

The chief recommends people always call 911 when they’re in a crash even if it’s minor. He says, for the most part, they’ll respond to the calls if they can.

“Somebody will bump into somebody’s car or hit it and they wont stick around – we definitely see more of those,” says the chief.

One reason drivers think there’s an uptick: distracted driving.

“I’ve seen people drive in and they’re too busy on their cell phones,” said Huber. “They’re not watching where they’re going and they start backing out and someone is behind them.”

The National Safety Council’s recent survey shows 66% of drivers are comfortable making phone calls while in parking lots and roughly half feel okay sending a text or email.

“You’re not aware of your surroundings,” said Chief Pacholec. “You don’t have good situational awareness.”

The chief recommends these tips:

– Put down your cell phone
– Have your keys out and ready before leaving the store
– Lock your car
– Don’t keep valuables/new items in plain sight

“If you go into more with a calm attitude and think about the happiness of the season rather than the rush of it than it helps you slow down,” said Tordoff.

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