Holiday shopping means stress for some, especially when it comes to parking-lot pandemonium. Throw in darkness, lots of people with pockets full of money and armfuls of purchases, and it could be a perfect situation for thieves.
Whether it's the thrill of holiday shopping hustle and bustle or the hunt for the ultimate gift deal, holiday shopping should not come at the expense of safety, said Jenny M. Robinson, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. This year, more retailers are opening earlier than ever before, after dark on Thanksgiving night and others will open before daybreak on Black Friday. AAA advises shoppers to be aware of their surroundings, especially in dark parking lots, and stay alert while out and about.
Shawn Conrad, executive director of the International Parking Institute, said parking at this time of the year could be a headache. Tempers boil over, good will to fellow man is thrown out the window and parking etiquette is pushed to the brink.
There's no question that the holiday season presents special challenges for drivers. Wherever your plans take you, building in extra time for parking may be the best strategy of all, Conrad said.
And, he added, take the safety of yourself and your possessions into account.
AAA offered the following advice for parking-lot safety:
• Stay on guard in parking lots. Choose a well-lit area to park during early-morning hours and at night. When returning to your vehicle, have keys ready in hand, check under your car and in the back seat before getting in, and lock your doors as soon as you get in. Watch for loiterers and report suspicious people.
• Park smart. Park straight and avoid parking next to crooked cars. If possible, avoid backing out of a space by either backing in to park or finding a pull through space.
• See and be seen. Use your headlights when scouring parking garages for spaces, even during the day. Avoid parking between a pair of tall SUVs 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.
• Obey the laws. Drive the speed limit, stop at stop signs, buckle up, don't park in handicap spaces, don't text and/or talk on the phone.
• Watch for children and pedestrians. It can be difficult to see small children, who may make quick, unpredictable movements.
• Lock your car and hide valuable. Thieves like to window shop. Place all shopping bags and valuables in the trunk, including GPS units and their mounts, and always lock your car.
When returning to your vehicle, have keys ready in hand, check under your car and in the back seat before getting in, and lock your doors as soon as you get in. Watch for loiterers and report suspicious people.