Parking lots are more dangerous than you may think. Twenty-five percent of pedestrian-related accidents occur in parking lots, a fifth of which end in serious injury or death. It's important to consider safety when walking through a parking lot with children.
Children may be especially at risk while in a parking lot, due to their small size and unpredictable movements. Kids may be too short to be visible to a driver behind the wheel. They may also dart out sudden or neglect to check their surroundings while playing.
Keep your kids safe in parking lots by following a few common sense procedures. These precautions may seem obvious, but the truth is, it's easy for both kids and parents to forget safety in parking lots.
Consider a Parking Lot a Street
When crossing at an intersection, you probably have a few set rules for your children. Likely you stop and look both ways or wait for a signal. You may hold younger kids' hands, and emphasize walking straight across without any distractions. Some school teachers even require complete silence as they walk a group over a crosswalk.
Teach your kids that a parking lot is no different than a street. It is place where cars can drive, so the dangers are the same. In fact, a parking lot may be even more dangerous because cars can pull out unpredictably and there aren't any signals or set procedures for pedestrians. Any expectations you have while crossing a street should stand while in parking lots.
Back in your driver's education classes, you probably learned the concept of "defensive driving". Defensive drivers never assume that other drivers will follow the rules. They always look both ways before heading through a green light, and they check their surroundings regardless of what they might expect.
Teach your children this same concept while in parking lots. A car might back up unexpectedly, even if it is poised to pull out of its spot forwards. Remind your child to assume a driver did not see you until she makes direct eye contact.
Choose The Safest Route
Always consider maximum visibility and a safe, straight route across a parking lot. If possible and practical, walk in front of cars, not behind them. A driver is less likely to accidentally drive head-on into a pedestrian, but forgetting to check before backing up does happen. In the case that a driver was accidentally in reverse, they probably wouldn't look behind them at all.
When crossing parking aisles, wait until you reach the corners or another visible spot that drivers might expect pedestrians to be. Stay in the main parking aisles as much as you can, and try not to walk between cars. Avoid walking in blind spots or anywhere where cars might suddenly turn a blind corner. Keep your eyes off your phone and hold young children's hands. Be doubly sure that oncoming traffic sees you before you step out.
Load Children Before Groceries
To minimize accidents, always load your kids into their car seats first. Make sure they are buckled in securely before taking your eyes off of them. Inside the vehicle is the safest place for your child as you load your car. Even if he is secured in a shopping cart seat, he is vulnerable should a car accidentally hit your cart.
"Hands on the Car"
Navigating parking lots will multiple children in tow can pose an added challenge. You only have two hands to hold, and it takes both of those hands to load and unload a toddler or baby into a car seat.
Use this trick to help you manage multiple kids in parking lots: Take your oldest child out first, and instruct him to put both hands onto your car. That keeps him in a safe place while you unload your younger child. You can use a similar strategy to teach older children to keep one hand on your stroller as you push it across the parking lot.
Parking lot safety is no joke. Taking it seriously will help keep your kids safe.