Parking lots are a dangerous place for your drivers to let their guard down. According to the National Safety Council, one in five automobile crashes take place in a parking lot. For commercial fleets, the numbers are even higher, with two-thirds of a fleet’s collisions happening in a parking lot.

Most of the time, these incidents are minor – a scratched door, a dented bumper. If they’re just scratches and dings, what’s the big deal?

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Parking lot collisions are incredibly common

While some behind the wheel incidents are unavoidable, that’s not the case with many parking lot collisions. Such occurrences are common for two primary reasons:

  1. Parking lots are designed to fit the maximum number of cars in the minimum amount of space. In a restaurant parking lot with a drive-thru, things can get even more chaotic.
  2. Drivers are distracted in parking lots, preoccupied with things like technology, finding a parking space or locating a business. Polls show that over half of surveyed drivers admit to programming their GPS, sending and receiving emails and/or using social media while driving in a parking lot. An alarming number of drivers also said they took a photo (49 percent), surfed the internet (43 percent) or video chatted (42 percent).

While these distractions feel routine, such actions can have costly implications. Damage to a vehicle may prove minimal, but minor collisions have plenty of other direct and indirect costs that add up quickly.

Direct cost of parking lot collisions

Vehicles come in all different shapes and sizes – the average passenger vehicle weighs 3,735 pounds, while the typical box truck can weigh anywhere from 15,000-18,000 pounds, depending on what it’s carrying. That’s enough to do considerable damage to another object. Usually that object is another vehicle, and other vehicles, especially passenger vehicles, are expensive to repair.

When you consider the cost to repair body damage, parts and paint, even a minor collision can quickly begin adding up – and that’s before we even get to the cost of the rental car. The direct costs of parking lot collisions are reasonably straightforward and typically include:

  • Cost to repair the other vehicle or struck object
  • Cost to repair your company’s vehicle
  • Cost of a rental vehicle

These costs usually add up to a few thousand dollars. There are a couple of notable exceptions: if a driver hits a gas pump or transformer, direct costs can easily be in the tens of thousands of dollars. But oftentimes, direct costs don’t tell the complete story.

What direct costs don’t tell you

Safety professionals often talk about the “iceberg of safety costs.” The direct costs of parking lot crashes are easy to see, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Indirect crash costs are hidden beneath the waterline and are often significant. These indirect costs can easily eclipse the direct costs by five times or more.

Here are a few examples of the indirect costs of parking lot collisions:

  • Termination and onboarding – If the vehicular incident is serious enough to justify termination, you’re looking at a huge investment of time and money to replace the driver. On average, cost-per-hire shakes out to an average cost of $4,129, no small investment.
  • Injuries, medical bills and lawsuits – In this ever-increasingly litigious society, a collision that happened at less than two miles per hour could consequentially rack up thousands of dollars over weeks and months.
  • Delays in services offered – After a collision, scheduled deliveries and pickups will be delayed, impacting customer service. Your team may even have to provide additional, uncompensated services to keep customers happy.
  • Extra operating costs – You may need to deploy extra resources to offset any service delays caused by collisions. Overtime, additional fuel, mileage and lost product are rarely counted in the cost of collisions, but they add up quickly.
  • DOT reportable crashes – For those with Department of Transportation (DOT) regulated fleets, many parking lot incidents, especially those involving entry and exit, have the potential to be classified as a “reportable collision.” If a fleet has enough of these incidents, you can end up in “alert” status with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), forcing you to redirect internal resources, staff and budgets to deal with compliance issues.

With the prevalence of parking lot collisions as well as the direct and indirect costs associated with parking lot collisions, it’s essential to instill workplace parking lot safety information in your employees.

Educating your drivers on the perils of parking lots

Through educating drivers about parking lot hazards, you can avoid potentially expensive collisions. Start out with our seven simple parking lot safety tips for employees like yours.

Parking lot safety tips for employees

  1. Always be alert for pedestrians darting to and from their vehicle – especially in times of low visibility like bad weather.
  2. When backing up, go slow and repeatedly check for pedestrians and other hazards.
  3. Be alert for children. Studies show that 50 percent of children exit the vehicle before an adult and 89 percent cross the parking lot outside of an adult’s arm reach.
  4. After exiting the vehicle, be aware of abandoned shopping carts that could roll into your vehicle and cause damage.
  5. Don’t expect other drivers to stop at stop signs.
  6. Anticipate that drivers will turn the wrong way down a one-way parking aisle and take “shortcuts” across parking spaces.
  7. Avoid making left turns out of a parking lot onto a busy street. Instead, turn right and go around the block.

Overcome parking lot collisions

As you may have gleamed from reading this blog, one of the most common causes of parking lot collisions is in fact distracted driving. What’s more alarming is the knowledge that distracted driving is extremely prevalent yet entirely preventable.

Wondering how you can begin curbing your distracted drivers and keep those behind the wheel on behalf of your company safer not only in parking lots but on roadways as a whole?  Download our white paper, Distracted Driving – A Preventable Problem to learn more.

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