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.

According to the National Safety Council, one in five automobile crashes takes place in a parking lot. For commercial fleets, the numbers are even higher, making up two-thirds of a fleet’s collisions.

It’s been found that many 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%), surfed the internet (43%) or video chatted (42%).

Most of the time, these incidents are minor, such as a scratched door or dented bumper. If they’re just scratches and dings, it may not seem like such a big deal. But there are bigger costs and repercussions that safety managers must consider.


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, which is expensive to repair – especially when considering the current state of the industry. The post-pandemic economy has brought surging vehicle repair and replacement costs. 

When you consider the high costs 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 can add up to thousands of dollars. And there are even 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. Oftentimes, these direct costs don’t tell the complete story.

The Hidden Costs of Parking Lot Collisions

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 hidden costs of parking lot collisions:

  • Termination – 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, which is 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. As costs for motor vehicle bodywork and used vehicles increase rapidly, the average price to settle claims is rising as well. These are expenses that were already climbing pre-pandemic, with vehicle crash costs incurred by businesses from insurance premiums, repairs, lost productivity and other expenses amounting to $57.9 billion in 2018, as compared to $47.4 billion in 2013.
  • 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 collisions – 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 communicate workplace parking lot safety information to your employees.

Educate Your Drivers on the Perils of Parking Lots

Through educating drivers about parking lot hazards, you can avoid potentially expensive collisions. We’ve provided seven simple parking lot safety tips for your employees below.

Parking lot safety tips for employees

  1. Always be alert for pedestrians darting to and from their vehicle – especially in times of low visibility such as 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% of children exit the vehicle before an adult and 89% 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 obey 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.

>> Visit our training catalog to explore our available courses for parking lot safety training! <<

Mitigate Your Fleet’s Driver Risk with Training

Safety training for commercial fleets promotes safer driving habits – protecting your drivers, your company and the community at large.

Now that you know why it’s important to train on parking lot safety, the next step is to explore our guide, Six Questions to Ask When Implementing Driver Training, and read about evaluating driver training against your fleet’s needsDownload the guide below to learn more!


If you enjoyed this article, we recommend the following: