With only a few days left before Christmas, Old Saint Nick has a few words of friendly advice for New Jersey drivers: Start parking correctly at the mall or you could wind up with coal in your stocking Christmas morning!

Antonio-BanderAS, ThinkStock

A new AAA survey found 76 percent of U.S. drivers are parking their cars incorrectly.

So what is it that so many motorists are doing wrong?

AAA said they are pulling into a parking spot, rather than backing in, which means they have to back out when it’s time to go.

Jim Lardear, director of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said this is a risky practice.

“You’re backing up into potential traffic, and especially in shopping centers or grocery stores at this time of year, there’s pedestrians everywhere,” Lardear said.

He noted being able to clearly see what you’re doing is very important during the holidays “when everybody is traveling to parking lots and malls and shopping centers for those last minute holiday gifts.”

So what should drivers do?

Lardea said drivers should park into a spot so when they leave they will be going forward, or “back into the parking spots so at the time that they’re leaving they have full visibility of what’s in front of them when it’s time to pull out.”

But what about those rear view camera systems, you may be wondering?

“We found that these systems failed to detect pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and even other vehicles at a pretty alarming rate,” Larder said “The most important thing when you’re backing up your vehicle is to turn your head so that you’re using your vision and not so much relying on technology.”

AAA, in partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, found when drivers were using rear view cameras:

  • A passing motorcycle was not detected by the systems in 48 percent of tests.
  • The systems failed to detect a bicycle passing behind the vehicle 40 percent of the time.
  • The systems failed to detect a passing vehicle 30 percent of the time.
  • While not all systems are designed to detect pedestrians, the technology failed to detect pedestrians 60 percent of the time.

The bottom line, according to Lardear, is that pulling out of a parking spot increases visibility and safety.

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