A National Safety Council (NSC) poll has found that two thirds (66 per cent) of drivers would make phone calls while driving through a parking lot, and 56 per cent would send text messages.

Taking into account the increased traffic in and around parking lots during the holiday shopping season, the NSC is urging drivers and pedestrians to exercise additional caution.

“Parking lots are intense driving environments that require both drivers and pedestrians to pay close attention,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “It is discouraging that so many drivers are willing to add distractions to that mix. When you’re in a parking lot, you need to be hyper-vigilant to the risks surrounding you – just because speeds are lower doesn’t mean you are safe.”

On average, more than 50,000 crashes occur in parking lots and parking garages annually, resulting in 500 or more deaths and more than 60,000 injuries. If the national roadway trend is any indication, parking lots may be even riskier this year. Motor vehicle deaths on all roads are up 9 per cent through the first six months of the year compared to 2015.

Distracted walking is a serious safety issue, too. From 2001-2011, more than 11,000 pedestrians were seriously injured because they were distracted by their phones. Pedestrian deaths also are on the rise. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found the number of pedestrian deaths jumped more than 9 per cent in 2015 compared to 2014 – the highest number since 1996.

Poll respondents also said they would do the following while driving through parking lots:

  • Program GPS (63 per cent)
  • Send or receive emails (50 per cent)
  • Use social media (52 per cent)
  • Take photos or watch videos (49 per cent)
  • Use a smartwatch (43 per cent)
  • Surf the Internet (43 per cent)
  • Video chat (42 per cent)

Notably, teen drivers were less likely than adults to talk on the phone (60 per cent), use a laptop or tablet (29 per cent), or watch a TV or movie (33 per cent) while driving through a parking lot.

However, teens were more likely to groom themselves (59 per cent) than adult drivers (53 per cent).

In addition to being vigilant, the NSC encourages drivers to use advanced driver assistance systems to their advantage. Fifty-one parking lot and parking garage deaths each year occur when drivers are backing up.