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How to protect your car in car parks

It’s no surprise that accidents happen in car parks. There’s a lot of activity, with cars and pedestrians constantly coming and going. It’s all too easy to collide with another car, or for vulnerable people to get hurt by moving vehicles. Meanwhile, thieves can find fresh pickings in a poorly lit or unattended car park. So how do you protect your car in a car park?

Accidents in car parks

Accidents in car parks are becoming more common. One UK courtesy car provider, Accident Exchange, claims a 35% rise in car park accidents since 2014 to around 2,000 prangs per day in 2017.

Many car parks have become crowded and spaces are quite tight for what one journalist cheekily called: “a vehicular obesity epidemic”. Some SUVs are too wide for old-style parking spaces and have scrapes on the sides to prove it. Meanwhile, accidents are most likely to happen on Fridays or in the afternoons on any day.

Did you know each of the top five types of car accident can happen in a car park? These are:

  • Rear end collisions (31%)
  • Failed to give way (26%)
  • Collision with stationary object (17%)
  • Collision while reversing (11%)
  • Collision with parked cars (7%).

Unfortunately, accidents in car parks are 47% more likely around Christmas – AAMI says one in eight accidents happen then. The top three worst shopping centre car parks for accidents are:

  • Vic: Eastland Shopping Centre, Ringwood (142 crashes)
  • NSW: Chatswood Central (99 crashes)
  • Qld: Indooroopilly Shopping Centre/Westfield Carindale (85 crashes).

As well as car accidents, there is a real risk of theft in car parks.

The risk of theft in car parks

Of course, the risk of theft is higher in car parks because cars remain unattended for hours. Some other possible reasons are:

  • Poor lighting, blind spots and corners where cars can’t easily be seen
  • Little surveillance by passers-by
  • Attendants’ booths may be badly positioned with poor visibility and small windows
  • Trees or bushes may provide cover and easy entry for thieves
  • Lots of pedestrian throughways can encourage theft.

British research found parking spaces near shops had lower theft rates because shoppers and employees provided natural surveillance.

Some cars are more likely than others to be stolen.

Most broken into cars

As you might expect, popular cars are popular with thieves too. The top 10 stolen vehicles in the year to September 2020 includes two Holden Commodore models (1,384 thefts) and three models of Toyota HiLux (1,442 thefts).

In the year to September 2020, thieves stole 52,638 vehicles in Australia (7% fewer than the previous year):

  • Vic had the most car thefts in Australia (29%)
  • NT’s theft rate per 1,000 registrations is the highest (3.9), nearly double NSW with the lowest (2.0)
  • Friday nights from 4pm-8pm were peak time for thefts (2,315)
  • Half of all car thefts were in home driveways/garages and a quarter in the street.

If you own a car that is known to be popular with thieves, it is worth developing a few good security habits.

How to secure your vehicle

Thieves report that it’s easy to break into most cars and drive away within minutes, if not seconds. One reason is because car owners unintentionally invite theft by:

• Leaving valuables in view or placing them in known hiding spots
• Putting spare keys in magnetic containers near the wheel
• Leaving doors unlocked, windows open and even keys in the ignition.

National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) claims only 58% of vehicle owners bother generally to keep their keys out of sight. Budget Direct claims 18% of car thefts happen when keys are left in the ignition. Meanwhile, thieves can also relay signals from keys and unlock devices remotely.

Here are some tips to stop car theft:

  • Use a steering wheel lock, which acts as a strong visual deterrent
  • Pay attention to where you park, for example, parking facing a wall makes it harder for thieves to drive away
  • Don’t leave rubbish or mess in a car as it encourage thieves to look for something valuable – never leave ownership documents in the car
  • Use a dashcam in surveillance mode so it works while you are away from the car.

It’s easy to make silly mistakes sometimes,  such as forgetting to lock doors. However, Australian Road Rules are clear about leaving your keys in the car, windows down or doors unlocked – don’t do it. In car parks, road rules still apply so always follow the speed limit, road signs and pedestrian markings.

Do car park accidents affect your greenslip?

Yes, car park accidents can affect your green slip. The greenslips.com.au calculator asks about accidents where you were at fault in the past 2 or 5 years. It also asks about licence suspensions or cancellations or alcohol or drug related offences in the last 3 years or any demerit points.

Car park accidents may affect your comprehensive insurance too.  Some insurers have exclusion policies if you leave your vehicle unlocked and unattended, with keys in the ignition.

Insurance claims are usually complex so proving who is at fault can be difficult. Here are some common examples of collisions in car parks:

  1. Drivers approaching the through lane from parking spaces should give way to vehicles driving through the through lane. In a collision, the vehicle exiting the parking space is at fault.
  2. A collision can occur when two vehicles on opposite side of the same line back out at the same time. The driver that exits first is not at fault but the second driver has a duty of care before exiting – it can be hard to tell who backed out first.
  3. If your car is hit while parked you are not at fault but, if your door was open, liability may be split 50:50.
  4. A collision can happen when two cars try to park in the same space. The driver crossing traffic lanes is at fault for not yielding to the vehicle turning into the space.

In the end, it may be better to take control where you can and not risk a battle later on. Wise drivers will close up and lock up and take extra precautions while entering and exiting car parks.

Corrina Baird

Writer and expert greenslips.com.au

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered first hand what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years of writing and research in financial services, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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