Montgomery Co. officials: Shopping shouldn’t be a holiday hazard

CLARKSBURG, Md. — Customers with limited time and big shopping lists can become stressed out as they try to tackle their holiday gift lists, and local public safety officials urge shoppers to take it easy and stay safe as they navigate the congested parking lots of area malls and stores.

“More pedestrians are hit by cars backing out of a parking space than any other way in Montgomery County,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger, who spoke at the kickoff of a holiday safety campaign on Monday at the Clarksburg Premium Outlets.

As of Nov. 25, Montgomery County police reported 23 fatal traffic collisions that resulted in 28 deaths. Of those killed, seven were pedestrians. Police records show there were 3,848 crashes that resulted in injuries — of those, 392 involved pedestrians.

Police and fire officials joined Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett to spotlight the need for both drivers and pedestrians to take extra precautions while running errands, including at the new shopping destination.

Leggett said the novelty of the outlet shops has been drawing big crowds.

“People are excited about it. They’re rushing in to purchase things, and people are not alert. So you have to constantly remind people” about safety, Leggett said.

Montgomery County Police Captain Tom Didone had a message for pedestrians: They don’t always have the right of way.

“Pedestrians, when crossing in a mid-block area have to yield to cars,” Didone said.

Police officers handed out neon yellow shopping bags to customers at the event. The bags are intended to remind shoppers they need to use extra caution. But the bags serve a dual purpose by making shoppers more visible.

Stay alert to threat of thieves

Just as the holiday season is big business for retailers, it’s also a time for scammers and thieves to get to work.

Manger said shoppers need to keep purses closed and wallets tucked away. He also advised shoppers to avoid shipping gifts to home addresses.

“Don’t have packages delivered to unsecured locations. Packages are stolen off front porches way too often.” Instead, Manger said have packages sent to a work address or to a neighbor who is home when the delivery’s expected.

Leave the blue disabled parking spaces for those who need them

Also attending the event was Tricia Gallalee, with the Montgomery County Commission on People with Disabilities.

Gallalee said it’s important for shoppers to leave those disabled parking spaces open for their intended users. She explained the aggravation she faces when people who shouldn’t take a disabled spot take advantage, and when drivers—even those with disabilities — park over the loading zone adjacent to a disabled spot.

Those painted areas are intended for people like her who use a wheelchair. She needs the extra clearance to load her chair and her service dog, Indy.

“If I can’t park in that space, I cannot go shopping because I cannot get out of my car,” Gallalee said.

Taking up a space marked for people with disabilities carries a fine of $250 dollars, Manger said.

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