Safe in the Seat

8 Parking Lot Safety Tips for Parents

When discussing road and car safety, we often think of things like looking both ways and buckling up, but parking lots might not come to mind. It is important to consider safety in a parking lot just like you would near a busy street! 

According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, 50 children a week are injured in parking lots and driveways, which is an alarming number! In parking lots, drivers are distracted and congestion limits visibility, so accidents happen frequently.

Not only do parking lots pose a risk due to people driving distracted and backing up without checking their blind spots, but the lots can also have cracks, potholes, poor lighting, dangerous debris, and ice. Because of the many hazards associated with parking lots, it’s important for responsible parents like you to have a safety plan! 

Today, we’re sharing our top 8 parking lot safety tips for parents to make sure your family stays safe when running any errand! 

8 Parking Lot Safety Tips for Parents

Children are blissfully unaware of their personal safety. Most of the time, children have to be taught to respect dangerous areas like kitchens, streets, and pools. Parking lots are no different! Naturally, your kiddo will feel safe here, because you’re with them. It is our duty as parents to teach them the necessary steps to stay aware of their surroundings and keep themselves safe. 

To help your family with parking lot safety, here are 8 valuable tips to implement on your next trip! 

Stay Alert

When we think of parking lots, we may think of slow driving and open space. Instead of thinking about parking lots outside of normal traffic, we should consider parking lots like busy streets. Drivers and pedestrians alike can be unpredictable, and in parking lots there are not always clear and established rules, so stay alert and keep your kiddos close! 

When you’re walking through a parking lot, remember it’s as though your family is traveling across a crowded road. This mindset shift will help you stay vigilant, avoid overconfidence, and keep your family safe. 

Be a Defensive Walker

This goes right along with being alert! Do not expect people to drive slowly and be aware of pedestrians. Because people feel like parking lots are generally safe, distractions while navigating a parking lot are very common. 

The National Safety Council found that 2 in 3 parking lot drivers may be distracted. They discovered 50% of drivers admitted they’d feel comfortable texting, sending emails, using social media, and watching videos while driving through a parking lot. Wow! 

When walking with your family, never assume the actions of drivers. Make sure it’s completely safe before moving in the path of a car. And expect drivers to be distracted and unaware of you and your family.

Pick the Safest Route, Not the Fastest

Getting to the car quickly is not always the best for your children’s safety. Instead of picking the fastest route, try to find the path that provides the most visibility! Many parking lot accidents happen when a driver is backing out because of poor visibility and blind spots, so staying in sight as much as possible is best. 

Try staying in the main aisle for as long as you can. Walking between cars makes it difficult to see you, and it can get easy to lose kiddos in the maze! If possible, try to walk in front of cars too, rather than behind them. 

Finally, be conscious of when you move across the aisle. Don’t trust drivers will drive the correct direction and be aware of any potentially blind corners. Additionally, keep an eye out for trip hazards, debris, or ice that might be in your path. Remember, getting to the car safely is key, not quickly. 

Have Everything Ready Before You Walk

This tip goes for both exiting the car and entering it! When you arrive at your destination, try to park in the spot closest to the cart return. Then, keep everyone inside the car until you have everything ready. In a study conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, 50% of children were found exiting their vehicle prior to their parents. What a scary thought! 

Establish with your children that no one leaves the car until you’re ready to go with your purse or diaper bag and anything else you might need. Keeping your vehicle organized will help make this process faster, so check out our tips for maintaining an organized car.  

When you leave your destination, make sure your keys are out and ready. So when you arrive at your car, you can immediately begin loading your children. You don’t want to get to the vehicle and then dig through your bags to find the keys. This is a prime time for children to wander away from you and the safety of your car. 

Get Kids in First

Though you may be concerned about theft when shopping, we all know our children’s potential safety is way more important. Leave the cart or bags behind or next to the vehicle and get your kiddos loaded up first. 

Once the children are in the car, you can be confident that they’re safe while you’re loading up your shopping bags. No one is wandering away as you pack the trunk! 

What if you have a child that hates the car seat? That does make getting all your kids in first tedious, but check out our tips on making your child love their car seat to help make errands faster and safer. 

Follow and Practice the STAR Method

Taking responsibility for your child’s safety is obviously important, but helping your child be aware of their own safety is just as vital! We recommend teaching your child the STAR method from Connecting for Kids:

  • Stop: As soon as your child arrives at the car or leaves the car, they must stop and stand still. 
  • Touch: You have a STAR magnet on your car (which you can get here) or other feature for your child to put their hand on. They must keep their palm on the designated area until you say otherwise. 
  • Attention: Your child looks around for other cars and risks to help them stay safe. They also keep their ears open for your instructions. 
  • Ready: Finally, your child waits for you to tell them it’s either time to go or time to get in the vehicle. 

This simple method is very effective! It’s easy for kids of all ages to learn and understand. It takes a little bit of practice and training. But once it’s a habit for your family, you’ll have peace of mind that your children understand vital parking lot safety. 

Set Rules, Practice Scenarios, and Commit to Boundaries

Besides the STAR method, we also recommend setting other rules and boundaries to keep your family safe. Your rules should state that your child must always hold hands, walk, look both ways, and stay in the car and buckle until you open the door. 

Not only do you want to review these rules, but practice them! Roleplay at home, so your kiddos are ready for any situation. Even practice school drop off and pick up! When a child does not follow their safe boundaries, lovingly correct them and help them understand the importance of parking lot safety. (And, of course, verbally praise them when they are being safe in the street too!) 

Be the Example 

Finally, be a great example for your children. They will see your level of caution as a sign that parking lots are not safe and will mimic your alertness! Avoid distractions in parking lots like texting or looking at receipts. Teach your child how to stay focused and safe by demonstrating it yourself every time you’re in a parking lot. 

Every family needs to have a plan for parking lot safety to protect your child from distracted drivers and road hazards!

Whether the hazard is other drivers, patches of ice, or broken glass and debris, your child needs good parking lot safety habits. Taking some time to establish good boundaries for your family when navigating a parking lot will make for a safe and peaceful weekday errand!

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