Keys to survive Black Friday traffic: Safe, slow, courtesy


KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s the calm before the storm — before shoppers with visions of Christmas bargains dancing in their heads venture out to the concrete jungle known as the mall parking lot.

Maneuvering through the maddening crowds is an adventure for some. But it’s a job for others, like Kentwood police Officer Matt Belk.

“It’s going to be slower going,” said Belk. “There’s no getting around that.”

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So who better to turn to for some expert behind-the-wheel advice to guide you through mall traffic madness on Black Friday?

“It’s important just to make sure everybody’s taking their time, driving slowly, paying good attention and following all traffic laws,” said Belk as he maneuvered his patrol car down 28th Street and through the Woodland Mall parking lot.

Belk said distracted driving is a problem.

“People looking at phones. People looking down at whatever trinkets they have in the cars now,” he said. “Anytime that you have more cars and people distracted, thinking about other things and trying to find certain stores and keep taking their eyes off the road for any length of time — you’re going to see more accidents.”

Belk said there’s no silver bullet, no sure-fire magic to get through the holiday traffic rush.

“Obviously, right turns are going to go faster than left turns, but I don’t think there’s any secret end all,” he said.

The best advice? Being patient. Not only will it help keep you blood pressure in check, it may keep you from doing something you’ll regret.

“A lot of times during this time of year we run into problems with people trying to cut through private property to avoid traffic lights. Obviously, that isn’t helpful,” Belk said. It’s illegal and it causes traffic just to really slow down and it causes us to have accidents in parking lots.”

“People often times will try to cut across lanes or cut through parking spots. If you’re going fast through those spots like that, you’re going to end up getting in an accident going the other way.”

And when you find that coveted parking spot, make sure it’s a safe one.

“Park in well-lit areas. Don’t park under lights that are out,” Belk said. “Try to park as close to the buildings as you can and in areas where there’s a lot of other people.”