10 Safety Tips for Your Holiday Shopping Season

holidayshoppingDuring this busy holiday season, folks everywhere are making their lists and checking them twice. Many of us will be shopping and making purchases right up until the very last minute! With so much going on and so much to do, it’s easy to get distracted and forget about holiday shopping safety precautions. So we’ve rounded up some tips to make sure that you’re prepared before you head out to conquer your shopping to-do’s and stay safe in the process.

Before you hit the road:

1. Prepare your vehicle. The holidays mean the possibility of inclement weather. Whether it’s rain, sleet, snow, ice, or a “wintry mix,” you may have to brave the elements during your pursuit of the perfect holiday gift. Make sure that your car is winterized with properly inflated and aligned tires, snow tires (if needed), a working heating system to keep you and your family warm and to defog your windows, effective windshield wiper blades, and working headlights. If any of these vehicle maintenance areas need to be addressed, be sure to schedule service with your local dealership. Also, if you’re driving for any lengthy amount of time, better to be safe than sorry—fill up that gas tank!

2. Leverage your car’s technology. Even though many of us have a smartphone to rely on for directions or to find a new route in the event of construction or a traffic detour, many states, including Maryland, are cracking down even more on the use of cell phones while driving. Luckily, many cars these days—including the Acura and Nissan car models—offer technology packages that help with navigation, checking traffic delays, and even managing incoming calls and texts. Too often, car drivers don’t leverage the convenience of these technologies simply because they have not become familiar with them. We encourage you to take the time to do so! The last thing you should be doing is fumbling with controls while driving and possibly cause yourself the danger and inconvenience of an accident—yikes! If you have questions about your car’s technology, the dealership that sold you your car should be able to help you. In fact, at Tischer, we host new car owner clinics every third Wednesday of the month to help our customers not only learn about their car’s capabilities, but also to familiarize them with the variety of services and departments available at our dealership.

3. Have an emergency stash. If for any reason while out and about during your holiday shopping you should become stranded, it’s wise to have some sort of car “emergency” kit stocked with water, a blanket, and other essentials. This includes having a small medical emergency kit that is compact and which is relatively inexpensive. For a detailed list of handy items to keep in your car, check out this blog post we wrote earlier: “Essential Emergency Items for Every Vehicle.” While out and about:

4. Slow down. We know stores get crowded, parking lots get full, and there are amazing deals to take advantage of. Everyone wants to be the “early bird.” We know you’ll agree that no one should risk his/her life or the lives of others in order to get to a sale, no matter how good it may be! So please, heed speed limits, use your turn signals, share the road, and especially if there is inclement weather, slow down!

5. Don’t leave the car running. We’re all guilty of it—just making a quick pit stop on the way to another destination and popping out of the car while leaving the car running. At this time of year, don’t risk employing this lazy way of doing things. Loiterers may be lurking hoping to catch someone with gifts and goodies in their car from a recent shopping spree, while others might be hoping to grab a quick stash of money that’s recently been withdrawn in advance of a shopping spree. Simply put—there could be people up to no good waiting to take advantage of others who are in a hurry during the holiday frenzy. Not to mention the laws against leaving an idling car in a parking lot of any store!

6. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. That last point brings us to our next tip. As you arrive at your shopping destination, take an account of the area. Choose a parking spot in a well-lit area. Is there a landmark that will help you remember where you parked your car? Be wary of any areas that are convenient for people to lurk and avoid those “shady” spots. In the event of suspicious activity or an emergency, is there a nearby emergency call-box? Take five minutes to observe your environment before you hit the ground running. Of course, be aware of the parking lot environment when you are departing also by trying to save that text or phone call until you are in your car and using the technology your car provides in order to do that safely. After you get into the car, lock it immediately.

7. Protect your personal items. While you are shopping, be mindful of your personal items; in other words—don’t flash your cash! Keep your cash and credit cards concealed as often as possible. Gentlemen, this might mean for one day not keeping that wallet in your back pocket, but rather, tucked inside an interior “secret” coat pocket—or anywhere else that might be a little less obvious. Ladies, don’t leave your purses in your shopping carts. Keep them on your person at all times. And this next part goes for everyone—any purchases you do make, keep them tucked safely but securely in your cart or with a firm grip. The holiday season is a thief’s paradise; don’t make it easier for them by having things so available!

8. Avoid distractions. Depending on how much shopping you are doing, you might be making several trips to your car to unload some of your purchases. As you are going back and forth, avoid any behaviors that could distract you from noticing possibly threatening situations such as walking in front of another car (we all know people drive fast and carelessly in parking lots!) or being approached by a stranger. So don’t fumble for your car keys and look down into your pockets or purse—have your keys ready before you exit the building. As mentioned above, avoid talking or texting on your cell phone. Having one hand up to your face has a tendency to block your peripheral vision and having both hands on your cell phone texting forces you to look down and away from your surroundings. If you must converse, use a hands-free device like a Bluetooth earpiece. Once again, do not sit in your vehicle on the phone or counting money (or any other distracting activity) without locking your doors!

9. Conceal your purchases smartly. If you are leaving your purchases in your vehicle, be sure that they are tucked out of sight and properly concealed. If you have tinted windows, stow your items in the darkest area of your car. Small items can be stowed away under seats or perhaps even in a glove department or a locking console area. As silly as it may sound, you can even swap your purchases into less obvious carriers such as a grocery tote bag or a gym bag. After all, who thinks a lovely piece of jewelry would be tucked away where you keep smelly gym socks? And if the gym bag trick isn’t enough of a deterrent, always be sure to lock your car and arm your car alarm.

10. The more the merrier. As the saying goes, there’s strength in numbers. Any time you can be out and about with a group of people rather than flying solo is better for safety purposes. Two heads are better than one, you’ll have that “second set” of eyes—you know how it goes. After all, the holidays are meant to be spent with family and friends!

There’s a lot to look forward to during the holidays, and that’s why we hope the advice we’ve shared with you will not only help to make your holiday shopping safer, but smarter. What other advice would you offer your fellow readers? Be sure to share your holiday safety tips in the comments below!

From all of us at Tischer Auto, we hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season!