When you walk from a mall or store to your car, you probably feel pretty safe. You may not even think about this everyday activity, but it can actually be quite dangerous. As shopping centers grow bigger and bigger, so do their parking lots, and the distances you must walk between your car and the store. Although this is good exercise, there are also many risks with doing this. Potential risks, ranging from theft or purse-snatching to assault, rape, an even kidnapping, tend to increase at night. You are especially at risk if you are a woman walking to your car alone after dark. Few people realize the dangers inherent in this commonplace activity.

If you plan to be in the store after dark, park in the closest parking spot you can find. Even if you have to circle the lot a couple of times, parking closer means a shorter and safer walk to your car. After the car is parked, get out quickly and walk directly towards the building. Don’t spend time sitting in your car checking a shopping list, talking on your cell phone, or reapplying you makeup. If you do, you’ll be distracted enough to not notice a stranger approaching your vehicle.

Once you get out of the car and lock the doors, take note of your parking spot, the lighting, and potential hiding spaces such as walls or large bushes. Look for loiterers; if they are still there when you’re done shopping, watch out.

When walking to your car at night, take advantage of any help offered by the store. Most store security guards will be willing to escort you to your car. Though you might seem silly taking them up on this, your safety is worth it. If no help is available, try to time your exit when others are walking out of the store, so you won’t be alone in the lot. If you sense danger, remain inside until it is safe to walk to your car, and alert security to the issue.

Always be aware of everyone around you in the parking lot. This includes people sitting in parked cars, especially if they have parked near your vehicle in an otherwise empty parking lot. Carry a stun gun, canister of pepper spray, or personal alarm to thwart any potential attackers.

When placing an armful of purchases into your car, pay attention to how you load them into the backseat or trunk. Avoid turning your back to the parking lot for a long period of time. Once you’re done loading your purchases, get in the car and drive away. Again, it’s not safe to sit in an isolated parking lot for a long period of time, because this will place you in a vulnerable situation, making you a prime target for attack.

Distractions are plentiful when you’re out shopping, especially as you enter and leave the store. This makes it easy to become absorbed into your thoughts. Do you find yourself going over your shopping list in your head, rather than thinking about what’s going on at that moment? Parking in parking lots every day can make you forget the fact that these areas are relatively isolated and unprotected locations where something bad could happen. You can never be too cautious when out alone, especially when walking to your car after dark.

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