According to the Storefront Safety Council, a motor vehicle crashes into a commercial building—such as a restaurant, office suite, or retail storefront—nearly 60 times a day in the United States. This is not only dangerous for the people inside the building, but also for pedestrians in the area.
There are several suspected reasons for these type of accidents, one being driver error. Many of these accidents occurred when a driver mistakenly pressed the gas pedal instead of the brake.
The fact that many commercial buildings are located at busy intersections also contributes to the occurrence of these crashes, as well as the devastating harm that often results. At such locations, a missed turn or a gas/brake pedal error can send a motor vehicle careening inside a building. Why do business owners locate their buildings close to the street? For exposure—businesses want to maximize their visibility to potential customers.
Another reason vehicles run into commercial buildings so frequently is the epidemic of distracted driving that has surged with the development of the smartphone.
The aging population of the United States may also be a factor in vehicles crashing into commercial buildings. An estimated 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old every day in this country, suggesting that the diminished eyesight and driving skills of this demographic may be contributing to the surprising number of vehicle vs. commercial building accidents.
Finally, many risk management experts suggest that nose-in parking (parking perpendicular to the wall of a building, as opposed to parallel or at an angle) may contribute to the amount of storefront accidents. For instance, if a driver accidentally puts his car into drive instead of reverse, he may find himself in the dining room of a Denny’s when he accelerates.
If you’re not familiar with reports of vehicles crashing into commercial buildings, here are some recent, nearby examples:
- Last June, a van crashed through the front of a Dollar General store in the town of Calhoun in northwest Georgia. The driver told emergency responders that he was attempting to park when he pressed the gas pedal instead of the brake.
- In July, a car crashed through the front window of a White House Black Market women’s apparel store in Gwinnett County. Two people were injured.
- In August, a nine-car accident caused a van to crash into a Moe’s Southwest Grill restaurant near the University of North Georgia in Several people were injured.
- In a harrowing video from several years ago, you can see a driver crashing into a jewelry store window in Savannah, nearly hitting a toddler.
- On October 26, 2017, in Snellville, GA, a person was killed and another person injured after a car crashed into a storefront restaurant.
Who Is Liable for Storefront Crash Injury or Death?
While some fault for injuries suffered when a vehicle crashes into a commercial building may rest on a negligent driver, the owner of the business or premises may share blame. Based on the frequency of storefront crashes, in the retail and restaurant industry it is well-known that such crashes will occur—they are predictable. There is, however, a known and recognized simple solution designed to prevent injury to storefront customers and pedestrians. Thus, storefront customer injury and death is not just predictable, but also preventable in most situations.
In Georgia, an owner or occupier of land is liable to its invitees for injuries caused by its failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe. Ordinary care includes the obligation to take steps to prevent injuries and deaths that are predictable. What steps can be taken to keep people safe?
Solutions to Storefront Accidents
Bollards are steel and concrete waist-high posts you see in front of many stores. They are relatively cheap to buy and install, and protect the building as well as pedestrians. Many businesses, aware of the frequency of storefront crashes, have acted responsibly and installed bollards on their premises. In our view, the failure to protect patrons by installing these bollards or similar devices is wrong. Human safety should be the priority of any business whose customers are susceptible to storefront crash harm.