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AAA: Drivers, Pedestrians Must Be Safer In Parking Lots

By Aaron Kraut

Tuesday - 8/6/2013, 10:00am  ET

Montgomery County Lot 57AAA Mid-Atlantic says two serious pedestrian collisions this year in Montgomery County show pedestrians and drivers must be safer in parking lots and garages.

In June, an 81-year-old Potomac woman died after being hit by a car in front of the Giant grocery store in the Cabin John Shopping Center. In July, a driver hit someone in the parking lot of the Sam’s Club in Gaithersburg before plowing into the building and injuring two more people.

The county also attributed an increase of pedestrian collisions in 2012 to 121 collisions in parking lots and garages, a bump of 31 parking lot/garage collisions compared to 2011. The pedestrians collisions that happened in parking lots and garages made up 29 percent of the 423 total collisions in 2012 in the county:

So far, this year, at least one pedestrian, an 81-year-old woman, was struck and killed by a vehicle in a parking lot in the county.  Both pedestrians and drivers alike should exercise more precaution in parking lots, parking facilities, and garages in and near shopping malls, shopping centers, supermarkets, strip malls, and big box stores.

Here’s why: research shows that 20 percent of all vehicle accidents across the country occur in these areas, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic.

It appears the rate is slightly higher in Montgomery County, which is one of the few jurisdictions in the nation and region to track the trend. Yet Montgomery County is experiencing an 83.3 percent increase in pedestrian deaths this year, compared to last year. The county recorded six pedestrian fatalities in 2012.

John B. Townsend III, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs, said most jurisdictions rarely record pedestrian accidents in parking lots, calling Montgomery County, “the exception to the rule.”

According to a CountyStat review of the 2012 pedestrian collision numbers, none of the parking lot collisions were fatal. But 19 percent resulted in debilitating injuries.

Upon release of the numbers in May, the county said it was developing a plan to reduce pedestrian collisions in parking lots. But that may not be so easy.

In a report that came out of County Executive Isiah Leggett’s 2007 Pedestrian Safety Initiative, the county found that police and the Department of Transportation are restricted in what they can do to make private parking lots safer for pedestrians:

Reducing the volume of collisions occurring in parking lots/garages is challenging because MCPD and DOT do not have jurisdiction to implement enforcement and engineering methods which they would normally use in County-owned roadways. They are restricted to education efforts and rely significantly on business owners and developers to address engineering and enforcement.

“Traffic safety experts say one-fifth of all vehicle crashes occur in parking lots,” Townsend said. “It behooves motorists to remain vigilant for pedestrians before they enter or exit a parking area or a garage, particularly in shopping areas. And pedestrians must remain proactive about safeguarding their own safety.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic cited research that shows 25 percent of all parking lot accidents nationwide are caused by vehicles backing up.