Holiday frenzy poses parking lot trouble for shoppers on the move

| Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Stephanie Tang's holiday shopping strategy includes parking far from the store and making most trips on weekdays.

For the mother from Kennedy, safely navigating busy parking lots and shopping centers during the holiday hustle and bustle is a priority.

“I always park as far back as I can,” said Tang, 34, while shopping at Robinson Town Centre last week with daughter Sophia, 6. “I don't mind if I have to walk to a store a half-mile away.”

Like many motorists, Tang wants to have a clear view of where she's going.

Parking a little farther from stores during the holidays is one of the tips AAA travel agency offers. Shoppers outside several local malls, including the busy South Hills Village area on Sunday, offered other suggestions.

“People know to be concerned about safety on highways and neighborhood streets, but they forget to be on alert in parking lots,” AAA safety adviser Terri Rae Anthony said. “Crashes happen frequently in parking lots and have the potential to be quite dangerous, particularly for pedestrians.”

AAA recommends motorists avoid congestion by parking near side entrances rather than in front of main ones; use headlights when seeking a spot; and avoid parking between tall sport utility vehicles or minivans, which might block sight lines and make it difficult to back out of a space.

Dan and Melissa Loos of Elizabeth stay especially alert for children, who have a tendency to dart in front of cars.

“We're always cautious,” said Dan Loos, 26, who visited the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer last week with daughters Ella, 3, and Arianna, 1.

Jane Krauth of Mt. Lebanon and other family members got a fright last week when her 9-year-old granddaughter ran into the path of a car in a small lot, causing the motorist to stop suddenly.

Luckily, nothing happened, but Krauth said parents need to stay alert.

“We all thought we were being so careful. That scared all of us,” she said as she left Village Square in Bethel Park on Sunday.

Andrew Robinson, 37, of Canonsburg, who was at South Hills Village on Sunday, said people of all ages often forget to pay attention to traffic this time of year. He recounted a near collision in another parking lot when another motorist pulled up to an intersection quickly.

“That defensive mechanism kicks in, you know?” Robinson said, and he slowed, not sure the other car would stop. “They did, but it was at the last minute.”

Monroeville police Chief Doug Cole said officers get more calls for fender-benders in the Monroeville Mall parking lot this time of year, but the increase is not dramatic.

“I can't tell you people are getting run over in the parking lot,” Cole said. “Occasionally, people are struck, but it's pretty minor.”

Paul Morgan, a clerk with the Robinson Police Department, said the office receives occasional calls of parking lot accidents, “but it's not a regular thing.”

“At Christmas time, there are more than normal, but it's not every day,” Morgan said. “Sometimes two people will back out at the same time and bump each other in the middle of the aisle.”

Paige Piechnick of Bridgeville said motorists seem be become more aggressive, even vicious, this time of year as they hunt for parking spots.

Tony Priano of Baldwin Borough said he tries to get the spot closest to stores, “so I may be that aggressive driver she's talking about,” he joked as he left South Hills Village.

He watches for distracted pedestrians, especially parents with small children.

“They're out shopping, they're tired, and they're not focused. They just want to get home,” Priano said.

Cole urged people to avoid isolated areas in parking lots, particularly at night.

Pittsburgh Mills shopper Paul Schilling, 50, of Penn Hills said he doesn't worry that someone might damage his truck, although he knows parking lots can be dangerous this time of year.

“In another week or so, it will probably get worse,” Schilling said.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. Staff writer Kim Leonard contributed to this report.

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