Heads Up in Parking Lots is a campaign launched this week by Montgomery County, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C. I had the privilege of attending their press conference, held in the parking lot of a market in beautiful downtown Rockville. Why launch a safety campaign focused on parking lots?
According to County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett, who spoke passionately at the event:
- Nearly one-third of pedestrian collisions in Montgomery County occur in parking lots and garages.
- There’s been a 50 percent increase in parking lot and garage collisions over the past five years, with 300 people injured.
- One-third of those injuries have been severe
Leggett says collisions spike during the November and December holidays, particularly around 7 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m.
The Heads Up campaign is largely a collaboration between government, property owners, and retailers. As Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said, law officials have limited authority in retail parking lots, so enforcement is not part of their toolbox. Manger says 80 percent of parking lot collisions are the driver’s fault.
Many of the Heads Up campaign’s safety messages are reflected in numerous posters, signs, bus backs, and tip sheets that are available at montgomerycountymd.gov/walk. Similar messages are reflected in IPI’s annual holiday parking safety news release.
I was happy to meet one of our own at the press conference–Rick Siebert, CAPP, public section chief, Montgomery County Department of Transportation–and honored that during the press conference a shout-out was given to the International Parking Institute.
My relationship with Montgomery County started when I was developing copy and researching statistics for our “How to Park: A Must Read Manual for Teen Drivers” (produced in collaboration with AAA Mid-Atlantic Safety and Education, also at yesterday’s event). There are very few available statistics about pedestrian collisions in parking lots except for those from Montgomery County, which has tracked them for many years. Kudos to this proactive, safety-minded county and my delightful contact there, Public Information Officer Esther Bowring.
Esther and I are planning to knock on some doors at various insurance company groups to see if we can inspire more research and data gathering in this important area. If you have statistics to share, please do, and consider finding ways to communicate safety in your own communities. Thousands of people injured in parking lots and garages each year does not seem like a good thing for anybody. Let’s work together to see a dramatic reduction in those occurrences in Montgomery County–and beyond.