Recently, a friend of mine broke her leg as she was carrying groceries to her car in a Chapel Hill supermarket parking lot.

Friends say that she was in what we would normally consider a safe place, a pedestrian crosswalk marked with those diagonal stripes when she was struck by a car.

I wasn’t there.  I didn’t see it happen and I’m certainly not in a position to criticize either the driver of the pedestrian.  But, what I do know, is that public parking lots are notoriously dangerous places for both drivers and pedestrians.

I think we underestimate the danger.  Both drivers and pedestrians share the responsibility for navigating the place safely.  How many of us finish our errands, climb in our car, reach for our phone to call someone as we start driving through the parking lot to leave?

Whoa.  Bad idea.

Too many times I see a driver zooming through a busy parking lot with a phone held to his or her head.  At the same time we are doing this multitasking other drivers, very nearby to us, are backing out of their parking spaces possibly looking in their mirrors.  And pedestrians are walking near us in various directions.

If there ever was a time and place to concentrate on one single task, safely driving out of there, this is it.

Pedestrian behavior in parking lots can also be puzzling.  We need to walk smarter, simply pay attention to what’s happening around us when we’re walking through a parking lot.  I’ve never been able to figure out why so many people, when on foot, will stroll casually behind a car they see backing up.  That doesn’t make sense.  If I’m walking in a parking lot and I see a car moving in reverse, I make very sure to get out of that driver’s way.  All cars have backup lights that clearly show when the car is in reverse.

We’ll all be a lot safer if we pay attention to walking or driving, anywhere really, but especially in public parking lots.

— Raleigh Mann


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