Before you hit the mall to do some holiday shopping, Montgomery County Police have a message: Be careful. The number of pedestrians being hit by cars in parking lots spikes during the holidays.
Drivers angling for parking spaces and shoppers walking between the parked cars can be a bad combination.
"It can get very very bad," said one man at Rockville Town Center Thursday morning. "People are trying to get to the closest parking space with a hundred bags, and they're tramping through the parking lot not even looking at where they're going."
Another shopper blamed "the crowds, and tension, and people rushing, and basically the 'me first' mentality."
Parking lots can be downright dangerous for those on foot. And in just the past three years, the number of people being hit by cars in lots and garages has jumped more than 70 percent.
"If you look at where these collisions occur, the majority are in retail shopping centers," said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger. "And when you drill down even further and look at how these things occur, about 80 percent of the time, it's the driver's fault."
In an effort to help keep people safe, police officers and firefighters are hitting retail hubs, passing out fliers, and reminding people to be alert and careful. And posters on the backs of county buses are asking people to keep a heads-up in parking lots.
"We really want people to exercise caution, and drivers to be aware of pedestrians, especially when they're backing out," said Montgomery County spokesperson Esther Bowing. "Pedestrians, get off your [mobile] devices."
Experts say about 80 percent of pedestrian accidents in parking lots are the driver's fault. One thing you can do to keep others safe while you're behind the wheel: Back into your parking space so you don't miss out on visibilty when you're pulling out later.