For even the most experienced drivers, it difficult to make a left turn into a busy shopping center or mall. Left turns are already complex maneuvers that require the driver’s full attention, but they become even more complex with the introduction of erratic traffic patterns and high activity. In this post, we will cover some of the dangers that come with making a left turn into a busy shopping center, as well as some safety tips to remember next time you face a nerve-wracking left turn.
High Levels of Pedestrian Activity
One of the main reasons that making a left turn into a busy shopping center can be dangerous is the increase in pedestrian activity. Some shopping centers with busier parking lots may frequently have pedestrians walking near your vehicle’s path when you make your left turn. Drivers must be extra vigilant when completing their left turn into the parking area.
Safety Tips: Always Yield to Pedestrians
- If a pedestrian is in the crosswalk during your turn, you must always yield
- Look out for shoppers walking between parked cars or in unmarked areas
- Try and make eye contact with pedestrians to make sure they see you
Unpredictable Maneuvers and Erratic Traffic Flow
Shopping center parking lots, and parking lots in general, have notoriously erratic traffic flows. Vehicles may be unpredictable, traveling in various directions and switching lanes unpredictably. Due to these factors, it can be difficult to anticipate the actions of other drivers which increases the risk of accidents.
Safety Tips: Be Observant of Traffic Patterns
- Before making sudden maneuvers, observe how traffic may be flowing in the parking lot.
- Look out for any vehicles suddenly changing lanes or making frequent stops.
- Always use your turn signals to communicate effectively with other drivers
A Vehicle Geometry Challenge: Narrow Ailes and Tight Spaces
Tight turning spaces and narrow aisles and tight spaces are common in many shopping centers. Due to these constraints, it can be difficult to navigate a large vehicle or a vehicle with a large turn radius. Drivers should be familiar with the turning behavior of their vehicle, as well as the dimensions and ability to fit in spaces and under barriers in parking structures.
Safety Tips: Familiarize Yourself with the Dimensions of Your Vehicle
- You should be comfortable and familiar with your vehicle’s turn radius.
- When navigating tight corners, be cautious and avoid distractions
- When in doubt, proceed slowly to avoid vehicle damage.
Hidden Hazards: Limited Visibility
When making left turns into shopping centers, limited visibility is also an important factor. Signage, landscaping, and high-sided vehicles can obstruct your view of potential hazards. There is an increased probability of missing something in your blind spot when overall visibility is limited, requiring drivers to fully turn their head to check their surroundings.
Safety Tips: Check Your Blind Spots
- While mirror adjustments can minimize blind spots, remember your blind spot cannot be completely eliminated through mirror adjustments.
- You should physically turn your head to check your blind spot before completing the left turn.
- Practice patience and wait for a clear view of traffic before proceeding with your left turn
There are many potential distractions for drivers when it comes to shopping center parking lots. The desire to find parking, locate stores, or attend to passengers can attract a driver’s attention and cause drivers to lose their awareness of the road. Other “internal” distractions like using your phone or GPS can increase your risk of a collision.
Safety Tips: Minimize Distractions
- Remember to focus on your driving task at hand and stay focused on the road.
- Do not use your mobile phone or other device while driving.
- It is best to find a safe parking spot before attending to any other tasks.
The Challenge of Crowds: Congested Parking Lots
Congestion and limited space become apparent during peak shopping hours. Drivers attempting to make left turns may find it difficult to maneuver safely. To avoid hasty or risky maneuvers, drivers should keep patience at the forefront of their mind.
Safety Tips: Exercise Caution and Patience
- If possible, you may find it helpful to plan shopping trips during slow hours.
- If there are high levels of congestion in the shopping center, remember to be patient and defensive.
- Proceed slowly and with caution while being prepared to stop if necessary.
Sudden Stops: The Risk of Rear-End Collisions
Making a left turn into a busy shopping center is a scenario where you may have to stop suddenly. Congestion and other hazards may appear abruptly. These factors make rear-end collisions much more likely, although there are things drivers can do to prevent a potential collision.
Safety Tips: Keep a Safe Distance and Use Your Signal Early
- Signal your intentions in advance of your left turn.
- When other vehicles are in front of you, give them plenty of space in case they stop suddenly.
- Monitor your mirrors and maintain awareness of your surroundings.
The Effects of Changing Weather Conditions
Shopping centers can become particularly dangerous when weather conditions change. Snow, ice, or slippery surfaces due to rain can make in difficult to make tight turns or stop quickly. When making a left turn or any other maneuver in a shopping center parking lot, there are a few tips you should keep in mind.
Safety Tips: Adapt Your Driving
- Reduce your speed, especially when making your left turn, to prevent sliding and fishtailing.
- You should increase your following distance in case the car in front of you stops suddenly.
- Regular maintenance, such as checks on your vehicle’s lights and fluid, should be performed before driving in adverse conditions.
Making a left turn into a shopping center parking lot, or driving in a congested parking lot in general, can present unique challenges for drivers. There are numerous distractions that drivers should be aware of, as well as erratic traffic and unusually tight spaces. It is important to keep an eye out for pedestrians and vehicles which may be driving erratically. Remember, defensive driving is the key to being a safe driver and avoiding collisions.