Put down your phone and keep your eyes on the road — even when that road is going through a parking garage. There are more than 60,000 injuries nationwide in parking lots each year.

It’s a statistic you don’t hear much about, but according to the National Safety Council (NSC), every year thousands of people are injured and hundreds are killed in accidents that occur in parking garages or parking lots. These accidents account for some 60,000 injuries and 500 deaths annually, and the main culprit is something that we have talked about ad nauseam: distracted driving.

Last year, the NSC conducted a survey that focused on drivers and parking lots. When motorists were asked what kind of things they would do when driving through parking lots:

  • 63 percent said they would program their GPS.
  • 50 percent said they would send or receive emails.
  • 49 percent noted they would take a picture or watch something on their phone.
  • 43 percent said they would get on the internet.
  • 42 percent said they would video chat.

It’s not just drivers who have a distraction problem — distracted walkers are a serious problem as well. The NSC noted that from 2001 to 2011, more than 11,000 pedestrians were injured because they were looking down at their phones and not paying attention to the traffic around them.

Whether the result is a single-car accident, vehicle-on-vehicle accident, or vehicle-pedestrian accident, parking lots can be just as dangerous as the open road. Following basic driving rules and staying attentive can go a long way in avoiding parking lot accidents in Colorado.

Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, added:

Parking lots are intense driving environments that require both drivers and pedestrians to pay close attention. […] When you’re in a parking lot, you need to be hyper-vigilant to the risks surrounding you — just because speeds are lower doesn’t mean you are safe.

While staying alert behind the wheel is necessary both on the streets and in parking lots, there are additional “rules of the road” to adhere to when finding parking. Right of way goes by the type of lane you’re driving in. For thoroughfares, or lanes that exit to a street, you have the right of way. For feeder lanes, or smaller lanes inside a parking lot that do not exit to a street, you must allow traffic in the thoroughfare to proceed before moving into the thoroughfare.

Multitasking Is Never Safe

There are many things that can distract you when you are driving, and not surprisingly, the cell phone if the biggest culprit. While some believe hands-free talking is safer than driving with a cell phone in your hand, scientists beg to differ.

Driving and talking on the phone, even hands-free, is multitasking. While we all think we are good at it, what is actually happening is that you are switching attention from one part of your brain to another. According to the NSC, when you’re driving and using the phone, activity in the part of your brain that processes moving images decreases by up to a third, so you’re paying less attention to your surroundings.

Whether you are driving or walking, your best bet to keep you and those around safe is to put the phone down and concentrate on one task at a time.

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