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Cutting Through a Parking Lot: Legal or Illegal?

Driving is a great privilege and incredibly convenient in many cases. Still, almost every motorist will identify with being in a rush every once in a while and trying to shorten a trip by taking shortcuts. Some shortcuts are acceptable (such as taking a different route on the main roads), but others are dangerous and even outright illegal. Such is the case with cutting through parking lots in most states, so it’s worth thinking twice before doing so; not only could you end up with a fine, but you could get injured or injure someone else.

Why Do People Cut Through Parking Lots?

People typically cut corners by driving through parking lots to avoid a traffic signal (usually a red light) or other official traffic control device (such as a stop sign) that might take more time to navigate. People who try to cut through parking lot areas are usually in a hurry. Still, whether this is because they left late or ran into unexpected traffic, it is never appropriate for anyone to endanger themselves and others by doing so.

In most of these cases, people are not trying to harm anyone. But by deciding to rush through an area dedicated to slower driving, parking, and foot traffic, a driver’s negligence can result in damages to other vehicles and injuries to other persons or themselves.

It’s worth noting that cutting through parking lots to save time is sometimes known as “rat running.” Some of the most common parking lots and similar spaces drivers use to rat run are gas stations and businesses located off main roads.

Is It Illegal To Cut Through a Parking Lot?

Most state laws include traffic laws (or “rat running laws”) that prevent drivers from crossing a parking lot to avoid traffic signals. This should be enough to keep you from doing so, as there are fines associated that can be enforced if you are caught by a police officer and given a citation. Penalties range from as low as $50 to as high as $350 for unlawfully cutting through a parking lot.

However, it’s important to note that cutting through parking lots is not only illegal in states that prohibit rat running but is also dangerous in any situation and any state, regardless of the laws. Beyond just avoiding fines, this is another critical reason to avoid this practice, as serious injuries can occur that far outweigh the cost of fines associated with this moving violation.

What Are the Dangers of Cutting Through Parking Lots?

The dangers of cutting through parking lots are many. First, parking lots can be high foot traffic areas, so people can walk through the parking lot at any time, whether on public or private property. Because of the nature of parking lots and parking space arrangements, it can be challenging to see people walking out from behind parked vehicles, and people may not always be paying attention to the rest of the parking lot. As a result, collisions with pedestrians are a perilous possibility.

Another danger is damaging another motor vehicle, whether moving or parked. There are often many cars in any given parking lot, and even if they’re traveling at a safe speed, a driver rushing through the area can take most motorists by surprise and cause a car accident. Parked cars can also be accidentally dented or damaged in other ways by driver’s negligence when they’re cutting through.

Finally, if the parking lot is on private property, you also run the risk of being caught trespassing, and your case is even worse off if something happens to someone or someone’s property in the process. Regardless of whether the property in question is private or public, it’s best to resist avoiding a traffic light by doing so in the first place.

Why Does Rat Running Have a Bad Reputation?

Not only is rat running a moving violation in most states, but it has a bad reputation for several other reasons. The dangers it presents make it especially problematic for businesses positioned conveniently for rat running. The employees and customers at those companies may face more danger than others because of this practice.

Rat running doesn’t only occur in parking lots. Rat running also describes cutting through alternate routes and small streets instead of using the main roadway. This means that rat runners may also cut through residential areas to bypass whatever traffic jam (or traffic control device) they are avoiding.

Rat running can cause noise that interferes with surrounding businesses and residential areas. Depending on the vehicle in question, engine sounds and other vehicular noises are disruptive and can distract workers, wake babies, and cause annoyance to residents.

What if You’re Hit by someone cutting through a Parking Lot?

If you’re hit by a driver cutting through a parking lot, it’s essential to file a claim with your insurance as soon as possible and promptly pursue any appropriate legal action. Check to see if your state prohibits rat running, and if it does, be sure to use this in your case.

When another at-fault driver causes you bodily harm (or even damage to your vehicle) while rat running, you are entitled to seek compensation for your medical bills and repairs on your vehicle as well as lost wages and other costs to you associated with the accident. If you were in your vehicle when the rat runner struck you, your insurance might also kick in to help handle the situation.

Keep in mind that insurance claims alone may not always cover all of your expenses. If the other motorist’s insurance doesn’t cover everything, it’s imperative to take legal action. Rat running is a serious violation and should be taken seriously. In fact, beyond just fines and liability for the damage they cause to others and others’ property, people caught rat running may also have to serve jail time and other kinds of penalties as a result.

Should You Hire a Lawyer if You Were Hit by a Rat Runner?

Hiring a lawyer is vital if you pursue legal action against the other party who hit you in a rat-running case. While you may be able to navigate an insurance claim with relative ease (depending upon the specific case), lawsuits carry with them many more considerations, and having a legal professional on your side is invaluable for making sure you get the best result possible. A lawyer with experience with car accidents and similar cases will know how much you can reasonably sue for and how to get the maximum compensation based on your specific case.

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