GREENVILLE — The Christmas shopping season is upon us, and with it a number of potential safety hazards, according to Darke County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker. This Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, famously known as “Black Friday,” the busiest shopping day of the year.
“We want to arrive to our shopping experience safely, and when we’re done we want to arrive home safely,” Whittaker said.
One significant danger when holiday shopping is the threat of being involved in an automobile accident. Whittaker gave a number of pointers to help shoppers avoid this type of unfortunate occurrence.
“Wear your seatbelt,” Whittaker said. “Be patient, and give yourself time to get wherever you’re going. Be aware that there’s likely to be significant holiday-related traffic no matter where you go, be it Dayton, Richmond, Columbus or Indianapolis. And don’t be looking at your phone while you’re driving, as that could put you in danger of being involved in a rear-end collision.”
But the dangers don’t end on the road. It’s also important to be careful while simply walking to your car in the store’s parking lot, according to Whittaker, as becoming the victim of a crime is another danger faced by holiday shoppers.
“Be aware of your surroundings,” Whittaker said. “Have your keys out as you approach your car, and if you have an electronic fob that can unlock your vehicle before you get there, do so. Have your phone out so you’re ready to call 911 if necessary. And if someone you don’t know approaches you, get in your car, lock the doors, and secure yourself immediately.”
Other dangers include the threat of identity theft. On their website, insurance company State Farm recommends keeping your wallet in an inside coat pocket or your purse close to your body, not taking out any money until asked to do so by a cashier, monitoring your checking and debit card accounts closely, and using only a single credit card, so that data hacks like the 2013 Target breach won’t risk compromising more than one account.
Finally, we’ve all heard about overzealous Black Friday shoppers getting involved in physical altercations over rare and sought-after items. Whittaker advised following the rules and procedures stores have implemented in order to reduce the chaos in these scenarios. This includes some retailers, including Walmart, hiring off-duty sheriff’s deputies to provide security during key sales periods.
“When the deputies are standing there, their presence is often enough to keep people in check,” Whittaker said. “I’ve heard stories from employees, however, that some shoppers are very aggressive outside the presence of the deputies.”
Whittaker stressed that, while everyone is looking for the best deal they can get on Black Friday, it’s not worth getting into a fight just to save a few dollars.
“At the end of the day,” Whittaker said, “is it worth it to get into some kind of assault when we’re supposed to be doing this in the spirit of the season?”
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