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When we think about distracted driving, it usually means talking or texting on cell phones. Distracted driving is a problem all year long, but the stress and rush of the holiday season means that drivers will be a little more distracted than usual.

Whether shoppers head to the mall with a specific wish list or try to snag the hottest item of the season, all are trying to jockey for any parking space they can find. At the same time, they may be mentally checking off gifts just purchased, planning the next stop, or wondering what to get Aunt Millie. The combination of full parking lots and distractions is a threat to drivers and pedestrians. Mix in some wintry weather, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Drivers should:
•Watch for pedestrians. As soon you park, you’ll be a pedestrian. Use the same care that you’d like drivers to use when you’re the one walking.
•Slow down and stay calm. Lack of patience and the increase in parking lot traffic, leads to more accidents.
•Avoid distractions. Put away the cell phone until after you’ve parked. Don’t multitask while driving.
•Assume the pedestrian doesn’t see you. Don’t expect pedestrians to anticipate your moves.
•Check your vehicle’s blind spots. Be extra careful when backing out. It can be hard to see pedestrians, especially children.
•Many tend to lose the holiday spirit before they even park the car. Lack of patience and the increase in parking lot traffic, leads to more accidents.

Drivers are not the only ones distracted during the holidays. According to NHTSA, on average, a pedestrian is killed every two hours and injured every seven minutes in traffic accidents resulting from walking and talking or texting.

Pedestrians should:
•Avoid Distractions. Put away the cell phone, turn down the music and avoid distractions while walking through the parking lot.
•Watch for vehicles. Walking in a parking lot is a lot like walking in the street, but you can’t predict from which direction cars will come. Keep your eyes open, look both ways, and watch for brake lights and other signs that a car will be pulling out.
•Look for signs that indicate a car is about to pull out of a parking space.
•Never assume that the driver can see the pedestrian. Don’t cross in front of a vehicle until the driver has stopped.
Look both ways before walking out from between two vehicles.
•Wear light colored and reflective clothing at night.
•Be careful to not walk behind cars and to stay on the sides of lanes and on sidewalks where available.

Despite the precautions, drivers and pedestrians can still end up in an accident. If you are involved in a parking lot accident, report it to police and your insurer immediately, even if it seems minor. This way, you’re protected in case the other party does not have insurance or files a claim. If you hit a parked car or other property, and can’t find the owner, securely attach a note with your name and contact information to it, then notify the police and your insurer.

Holiday shopping can be an exciting experience for the entire family. A damaged vehicle is no gift you want; be a safe shopper in, and out, of the stores.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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