■ By Richard Perry / Contributed
Greetings from the Hemet Car Guy,
Oh no, Black Friday is coming up! I remember previous Thanksgiving family gatherings when my sister and mother-in-law would scour all the newspaper ads while the guys were digesting their turkey and watching football. The women would plan out their attack like a general creating a battle plan to find the best Black Friday deals.
While everyone else is sound asleep, they are running out the door before 5 a.m. with a tall cup of coffee, ads in hand, just to be one of the first in line to wait for stores to open their doors. I know the deals are out there, however that’s just too much energy for me…especially when I’m stuck in that turkey fog.
Millions of people shop on Black Friday; so the store aisles aren’t the only places that get congested – the roads and parking lots are another thing to deal with.
According to data from insurance companies, accidents increase by as much as 34 percent on Black Friday. But don’t panic or let that statistic deter you from making the trek…just keep a few things in mind so you can stay safe and keep your eye on the real prize…the sweet savings from the deals.
Drowsy driving causes accidents
According to Safeco, one of the most common problems with driving on Black Friday is that it’s so darn early. Considering that many people are on the road by 3 a.m. to snag that new flat screen TV for dad, the digital assistant for mom or that new gaming system for your kids, shoppers might not be alert enough to operate a vehicle safely. There are many risks for driving drowsy – your car insurance can increase if you are found to be at fault for the collision, and even worse, someone could be seriously injured. In 2013, a South Carolina teenager fell asleep at the wheel while driving home from a Black Friday shopping trip. He died and four passengers were hospitalized. So be alert and aware, and if you’re too tired to drive – pull over and take a short nap.
Park away from the entrance
Once you’ve made it to the parking lot, the next challenge is to find a place to park. This can get really tricky, because you’re often competing for that same parking spot with five or more other people. If you find yourself in a competition for a parking spot, let the other person have it and find another one a little farther away. It’ll help you get your 10,000 steps in for the day and you’ve just avoided a potential road rage incident.
Always file a claim
But if the unavoidable does happen and you have a minor fender bender in the parking lot, always trade insurance information and file a claim with your insurance company – immediately. Even if the other person says they are OK and no damage was done, get their information. Sometimes injuries don’t show up for days, and they may change their mind about filing a claim or decide they want more money than what was initially agreed upon. Or, you might find out that the other party is uninsured and will file a claim against you even after you’ve shaken hands and agreed no damage occurred. All of a sudden, you realize you need your insurance carrier involved. However, your prior interactions with the other party, or your delay in reporting the accident, may have compromised your ability to obtain coverage under your policy.
What if you come out of the store and find that you have been the victim of a hit-and-run in the parking lot? In this case, file a report with your insurance carrier and the police. A hit-and-run is a crime, and a police report may be helpful in the claims adjustment process.
No matter the type of accident, ask around for witnesses. Document everything you can. Write down the location, nature of damage, and approximate time of the accident. Use your phone to photograph the accident scene and the damage to your car.
While it may seem like it’s worth the rush to get those great deals, leave a little early instead and pace yourself while driving. Prevent a collision both on the road and in the parking lot and drive defensively. Watch out for people darting out in front of you. My wife Bambi gets very nervous about that. It turns out the majority of Black Friday accidents happen in the parking lot just outside the store. So, in her opinion, the parking spots farthest away from the entrance are much better. She has a point; besides, I just can’t stand the dings on the car from the carts of rushed shoppers.
Don’t invite theft
We know Black Friday madness is the busiest shopping day of the year, and there is bound to be loose packages around. Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown wanted to remind you to “clean out your trunks and use them to store your gifts and packages out of sight – no freebies for the bad guys that are tempted to break into your car.”
Hope this helps,
Richard J. Perry