I-Team: Why are more people being hurt, killed in parking lot crashes?

STATEWIDE (WGME) The I-Team investigates parking lot problems, and we discover they may be much more dangerous than you think.

We spent hours scoping out parking lots in southern and mid-coast Maine as drivers scoped out their spaces. We found many people more interested in their phones than the cars around them, carts and cars sharing the same space, and we saw a close call as a car tried to drive through an empty parking space.

"Parking lots are a very dangerous place," said AAA driving instructor Joe Ball.

Ball said the hunt for the perfect parking spot can be the most frustrating and hazardous part of the whole trip.

"Drivers when they enter a parking lot they're looking for a parking space; pedestrians are looking for their cars," Ball said.

He said it's easy to lose sight of everything else going on around you, adding up to a dangerous combination.

"One out of every five car crashes happens in a parking lot," Ball said.

Wisconsin police released video of a driver who lost control of his vehicle, slamming into nine cars before coming to a stop. No one was seriously injured, but the National Safety Council found on average at least 60,000 injured and 500 or more die in the 50,000 plus crashes in parking lots and garages every year.

"People have their heads down they're on their phones whether they're behind the wheel or whether they are pedestrian they're just a lot of inattention out there," said Debbie Hersman, National Safety Council.

A recent survey found 66% felt comfortable making calls while driving in a parking lot, more than half would text. Roughly half of drivers were okay with sending emails, using social media, taking pictures or watching videos, 42% said they would video chat!

The National Safety Council suggests these strategies for staying safe:

  • Use extra caution when backing up in parking lots
  • Avoid cutting through empty parking spaces and lanes
  • Slow down and watch for pedestrians, especially children, who of course are smaller and can be harder to see
  • When walking to and from your car, put your phone down and keep your head up
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