VICTORIA – With snow already falling on parts of Vancouver Island, ICBC has released a list of holiday driving safety tips and is warning of increased impaired driving enforcement this winter.

According to the insurance company, nearly 100,000 crashes occur in parking lots across the province each year, with many occurring during the holiday season.

In total, approximately 96,000 collisions occurred in parking lots in 2018, with 480 of those crashes injuring pedestrians. 

ICBC says that while some commuters may believe that driving in parking lots is safer than on roadways, parking lots are home to unique distractions and challenges, like heavier pedestrian activity and increased vehicle congestion. 

"The holiday season could add a layer of distraction with people apt to be more preoccupied with their shopping list or finding a parking spot," said ICBC in a news release Thursday.

To help avoid collisions this December, ICBC has released seven driving safety tips:

  • The rules of the road still apply, even on private property where the public is invited to park. Don't use your phone while driving, even in parking lots. Program your navigation or holiday tunes before you put your car in gear.
  • Have your car facing out in your parking spot: This position is safest for drivers because it helps you avoid the risk of reversing into a lane with potential blind spots when leaving.
  • Park further away, if you can: Instead of circling endlessly to get a spot that's closest to the mall entrance, pick a spot that's further away. You'll avoid a high-traffic area where you're more likely to crash with another vehicle or hit a pedestrian.
  • Slow down and be on alert: Drivers should drive slowly in parking lots to have enough time to react to an unexpected vehicle backing out of their parking spot or an unanticipated pedestrian, especially young children, who may be harder to see.
  • Pay attention to the arrows and stop signs: Many parking lots are quite narrow, restricting certain lanes to a single direction. Pay attention to the signs and markings on the road to avoid getting into a crash.
  • Don't block traffic: Deciding to follow a shopper, then waiting for them to load their car, buckle up and leave, jams up traffic behind you and likely takes you much longer than if you had just found a spot further away. Sitting idle in a lane can leave you vulnerable to a collision, and you could be blocking other drivers who are trying to leave.
  • Let it go: No sense in having a showdown with another driver for a parking spot. Move along, and maybe that good karma will net you something really nice this season.

Meanwhile, ICBC is advising drivers that police and volunteer services will be ramping up roadchecks this holiday season. The roadchecks are part of the province's CounterAttack campaign, which targets impaired drivers. 

According to ICBC, impaired driving kills an average of 10 people on Vancouver Island each year, and an average of 69 people across the province annually.

"Most people have got the message that driving after drinking or consuming drugs is dangerous," said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, in a news release Wednesday.

"However, there are still those willing to take a chance with the lives of themselves, their passengers and other road users," said Farnworth. "CounterAttack makes intercepting those people job number one."