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Storefront Accidents and Their Causes

Friday, April 1, 2016

Storefront Accidents and Their Causes

The Storefront Safety Council, a group of experts in perimeter security and parking, reports that vehicles crash into restaurants, stores, and other types of businesses as many as 60 times per day in the United States. More than 4,000 customers, pedestrians and employees are injured, and tragically, as many as 500 or more are killed.  The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates the yearly costs of these accidents reaches into the hundreds of millions, as there is an average of 20,000 each year, costing approximately $9,100 per accident. Most of these accidents – 46 percent – occur when the driver mistakes the accelerator for the brake. 

Storefront crashes typically involve teen drivers, older drivers, medically impaired drivers, inexperienced drivers, distracted and/or drunk drivers. An increase in the elderly population along with the rise of cell phone use among every age group has also led to more storefront crashes. 

The Risk Management Society (RIMS) reported that many of these crashes occur as a result of driver error. However, parking lot designs also lead to a number of these accidents. Several businesses are designed facing the street or parking lot, in order to create maximum visibility. Unfortunately, this design creates certain safety hazards. Despite simple solutions, the problem persists either because of a lack of awareness or an unwillingness to correct the issue.

RIMS provides the following examples of accidents that occurred in an 8-week period in 2014:

  • On March 1, 2014, a woman drove through the front doors of a Food 4 Less grocery store in Las Vegas. Twenty-six people were hurt and nine hospitalized, including one employee who was dragged over 200 feet through the store. Reports said that the driver accidentally used the gas rather than the brake and accelerated into the store as she was driving toward the entrance. The driver was not cited.
  • Less than two weeks later, while hundreds of attendees were enjoying the popular South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, a 21-year-old driver, evading a DUI traffic stop, turned a corner and drove through the temporary barricades at the end of the “closed” street, killing four and injuring two dozen. The driver faced capital murder charges and more than 20 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. This highly publicized accident showed the need for better "temporary" barricades in high traffic pedestrian areas, especially during popular events.
  • On April 9, there was a minor collision on a street in Orlando, Florida. The car that was rear-ended accelerated, drove over a curb and through a parking area, eventually striking a KinderCare day care center filled with children and teachers. The car went through the wall of the facility, only stopping due to the furniture, debris, and injured children in front of it. One young child was killed, but another 15 were injured. 
  • On April 25, while leaving Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor in Buena Park, California, a driver accidentally accelerated and jumped the concrete wheel stop, striking six people outside the restaurant.  One woman was killed and several more hospitalized. The driver was not cited.

According to the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, the layout of the parking lot and driver demographics are the biggest factors influencing storefront crashes. Specifically, positioning parking spaces perpendicular to the restaurant (i.e. nose-in) leaves vehicles facing the building and their customers. Though a popular parking lot design, these nose-in configurations increase the risk of accidents, injuries, and other damages. 

These statistics have not gone unnoticed: large chain stores, retailers, and developers have begun taking measures to reduce these crashes and their consequences. According to the National Parking Association, the two most common solutions include:

  • Eliminating nose-in parking spaces from store fronts or pedestrian areas;
  • Designing parking lots where vehicles do not approach the entrance directly; and
  • Installing protective devices such as a tested barrier or bollard, steel posts often filled with concrete, that prevent an out-of-control vehicle from jumping the curb.

Storefront crashes have drawn attention at all levels. In Florida, Miami-Dade County amended its zoning code, requiring the placement of “anti-ram fixtures” in all shopping centers. In November 2014, the global standards organization, ASTM International, approved a test standard for Low Speed Barriers for Errant Vehicles which sets regulations for bollards, barriers, and other devices most often seen protecting storefronts and pedestrians. It is estimated that the ASTM standards will help save hundreds of lives and millions of dollars in property damage each year.

Storefront crashes can and should be prevented. A customer’s safety should be the number one concern of every business. If you’ve been injured in a storefront crash that could have been avoided, call the attorneys at Brad Cooper & Associates, LLC to take action.