storefront-crashThere you are, minding your own business – just trying to make a quick purchase at the local gas n’ go convenience store.  Then, without warning – a vehicle careens through the front façade – sending glass, metal and display items every which way possible.

A fluke event?  A one chance in a million occurrence?

Not really.

  • Monday, July 06, 2015 – Bayside, Queens New York

A 90-year-old woman apparently panicked when she hit the gas instead of the brake pedal, crashing through the Bay Terrace Shopping Center Aeropostale clothing store.  The manager of the store was hospitalized, but the driver seemed OK.

  • Sunday, July 26, 2015 — Glen Rock, New Jersey

On the other end of the age spectrum, a 16-year-old student driver crashed into the front of a Dunkin’ Donuts store.  Like the 90-year-old woman, he hit the accelerator by mistake – and the Volkswagen SUV he was practicing in made its way inside the donut emporium.

  • Friday, Aug 7, 2015 — Metairie, Louisiana

Phil’s Grill, a popular burger place was treated to a car crashing through its frontage early that Friday.  Luckily, it was the morning, and no one was injured.  The restaurant did have to close temporarily for business.

DEADLY MISTAKES

The outcome of storefront crashes is not always so benign.  In 2011, at a restaurant in Amherst, New York a 74-year-old woman mistook the gas pedal for the brake (sound familiar?) and rammed into the establishment – directly into a family seated at the table.  The father died immediately.  The mother followed him a few hours later.  Their 13-year-old child survived.

TEXAS – NUMBER 4 IN THE NATION

Click2Houston News recently reported the Lone Star State ranked number four in the USA where storefront crashes are most likely to happen.  Other statistics show Texas ranking as second, with California and Florida as the other top-tiered contenders for the dubious title of having the highest number of storefront crashes.

DRIVER ERRORS MOSTLY TO BLAME

As you’ve read above, many storefront accidents are “pedal” mistakes.  Simply put, the driver hits the gas instead of the brake.  If they are in the parking place in front of the store (so-called “nose-in” parking), they jump the curb, and voila… the car, van or SUV finds itself making a new entryway into the establishment.

gas-pedalOther errors include mistaking forward for reverse.  Instead of backing out safely, the vehicle jumps the curb, and the operator finds himself (or herself) looking inside the unlucky store.
DUI’s account for another good portion of these types of accidents.  (The driver is so impaired they cannot judge the distance between the curb and the storefront.)

Medical conditions also play a part.  A driver passes out or suffers some emergency while behind the wheel, and the crash occurs.  Then sometimes a vehicle is thrust into a storefront because another car or truck hit them first, catapulting one (or both) into the building.

We should also note a fair number of storefront crashes are not accidental.  Thugs use their vehicle as a battering ram to crash into an establishment, grabbing anything of value they can – including ATMs.  After getting the loot, they simply drive away.

SURPRISING AGE DEMOGRAPHICS

One may be tempted to think absent-minded senior citizens are causing the vast majority of these storefront crashes, especially when it comes to operator or pedal error.

The numbers say otherwise.

According to published statistics, in 2014, those 20 to 29 years old led the pack in storefront crashes, followed by the 30 to 39-year-old crowd.  One contributing factor for the increased rate involving younger people is the use of cell phones.  Talking or texting while driving distracts the mind from what it should be concentrating on – safe driving!

WHO PAYS?

According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, seven out of ten storefront crashes involve convenience stores, restaurants or other business venues, with total damages reaching $6.6 million a year across the nation.

In a perfect world, who pays would be simple.  If the driver caused the accident, they would pay all the costs.  However, if the drivers themselves have no money or no insurance, the store owner may get a civil judgment from the hapless operator – but be unable to collect.  It is not at all uncommon for damages to reach into the mid to high five-figures, even with no personal injuries involved.

We also have to take into account the store’s liability.  If the parking lot design is such that storefront crashes have happened before at the same location, a case can be made the store owners knew there was a problem, but did nothing to mitigate or lessen the probability of another storefront crash.

Even if the store or building has taken precautions against storefront crashes, if an injury or death occurs, the owners will in all probability be named in the wrongful death litigation to follow.

SOLUTIONS

According to studies by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, installing safety barriers or bollards at the end of parking spaces between the storefront can go a long way in reducing or even eliminating these crash events.  If a vehicle does jump forward, they will hit the barricade and not the storefront.  The barricade may get a bit of damage, the car will certainly come out worse for wear – but the store and its occupants will remain unscathed.

Even strategically placed heavy plant urns, cement garbage receptacles or other similar items can help slow down a vehicle before it does its damage.

Another is to re-design the parking lot, making sure cars can easily maneuver the area.

However, nothing can stop fate or poor drivers.  If a car is headed towards your storefront – step back quickly!

TERRY BRYANT LAW FIRM

Terry Bryant Law Firm in Houston has been helping Texas residents for 30 years with their accident related legal problems and concerns.  If you or a family member have been injured in a storefront crash incident, Terry Bryant will help you get all the assistance and protection to which you are entitled.