Parking lots can be dangerous places. AAA reminds motorists to use caution as they travel about looking for holiday deals. While rushing to store after store this holiday shopping season, safety may not be the first thing on our minds.

“We tend to underestimate the risk of driving through parking lots because everyone’s going so slowly,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “But even fender benders can injure passengers and the damage to vehicles can be surprisingly costly to repair.”

AAA’s tips for staying safe in parking lots:

Stay on guard. Pay attention to where you park, note parking lot signs and markers. Use your smartphone to take a photo of where you parked. Choose a well-lit area to park during early morning hours and at night. When returning to your vehicle, have keys ready in hand and check the car’s interior before entering, using a penlight at night. Report suspicious people and cars.

See and be seen. Use your headlights when scouring parking garages for spaces, even during the day. Avoid parking between a pair of tall SUVs or minivans where it might be hard for you to back out of the space.

Stay on track and alert. Pedestrians should use walkways and crosswalks, if available. If walking in traffic lanes is unavoidable, be alert for cues – including exhaust or reverse lights – that signal a vehicle is about to pull out. When behind the wheel, always be on the lookout for pedestrians, especially the distracted type and those with small children. In busy parking lots, it can be difficult to see small children who may make quick, unpredictable movements.

Head for the side door. Many shoppers want to park near their favorite stores or near the mall entrance. Most malls have secondary entrances on the sides and those entrances usually have less traffic and additional convenient spaces.

Play the outfield. Outlying areas normally have more open spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision. Plus, it gives you a chance to walk off those holiday treats. In some cases, however, those spaces may not be as secure, so be aware of the risks.

Buckle up. Even a low-speed collision can result in injuries. Make sure that everyone is strapped in a seat belt or child car seat while the car is in motion, even if it’s just a short trip to another part of the parking lot.

Thieves like to window shop. Place all shopping bags and valuables in the trunk, including GPS units and their mounts. It takes a thief just seconds to smash a window and steal your shopping loot.