Steve Wallace: Mall parking lots loaded with hazards

Parking lots are among the most common places for the all-too-frequent fender bender. Many lots are poorly designed, with no opportunity for drive-through parking.

Every vehicle must use reverse gear to either enter or leave these types of parking spots.

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The worst examples are large mall parking lots, with a poor-excuse boulevard for supposed beautification. This is often a built-in obstacle and sometimes a hidden barrier, particularly when high curbs are constructed.

Many of these lots were designed in the southern U.S., without any consideration for winter conditions. They are often constructed with a modest slant to accommodate drainage. Freezing rain can turn them into an exercise in pinball management, as cars move mysteriously on the watery surface atop the ice, aided by the dramatic slant of the lot.

Some malls have diagonal parking spaces to avoid having vehicle doors opening and closing adjacent to one another. This is a good idea, but still needs a reverse-gear motion to be functional.

Vehicle bumpers are designed to lessen the potential damage to the front and back of the vehicle during the parallel-parking manoeuvre and you don’t have to worry about your doors when parked that way.

Light posts with enormous concrete bases are another potential hazard in a parking lot. The lamp post is very slim compared with the base needed to support the lamp. Many of these bases are out of the average sightline of the driver. Fender benders are a common sight in parking lots with these kinds of unseen support bases.

Big-box parking lots are by far the best. They are double-lined between the parking spaces, allowing for a lot of space between vehicles. There is enough space to allow shopping carts to manoeuvre between vehicles.

Many of these lot configurations provide a drive-through option, allowing a driver to prepare an exit plan when choosing a parking space.

The farther you park from the main doors of a shopping centre, the lower the likelihood of a fender bender. The bigger the walk, the smaller the crash potential.

Many shoppers want to park under a lamp post at night. This gives a clear view of obstacles and is a good counter against theft and other threats.

Never park close to the collection railings for shopping carts. People in a hurry often launch their carts toward the collection area when returning them. They are sometimes careless about their aim. Best to stay clear of this area.

Multi-level parkades are a good choice for shoppers. Many come with the added advantage of patrols by a security company, which gives great comfort to those who feel unsafe in unpatrolled lots. Surveillance cameras are now a common option for additional security.

It’s important to note the various traffic-control measures in parking lots. Painted stop symbols on the pavement of parking lots have little, if any, legal status. They are simply a guide and will not have the same weight in a court of law as the common stop sign at the end of any city block.

It’s best to enter and exit a parking lot at a secondary location, if possible. The main entrance to many lots is far busier, making less-frequented access and egress points a much safer option.

Take the dead-end space in a parking lot. This will allow only one other vehicle to occupy a space beside your vehicle, lessening the likelihood of a parking-lot mishap.

Better still, park alone, in the wide-open spaces.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

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