When designing any public space, such as a school, a parking lot, a store or something else altogether, there are so many things to keep in mind. You’re thinking about the natural flow of traffic and function, as well as sheer aesthetic value. You’ll also no doubt be thinking about safety and considering where traffic will flow vs. where pedestrians will walk.
But what happens when traffic going where it was never intended to compromises the safety of your design? What happens if a car breaches the safety barrier of the sidewalk and crashes into the front of the building?
As shocking and horrifying as such an event could be, you may be surprised to learn that vehicles crashing into buildings are not an uncommon occurrence. It happens more often than it should, and often with disastrous consequences. In such instances, customers and employees alike can be injured, not to mention the damage sustained by the building itself, your equipment and the products you sell. No matter the location of your building, this is a real possibility that, unfortunately, we all must take seriously.
As a conscientious contractor, designer, architect or business owner, what can you do to promote storefront safety? How can your design help prevent storefront crashes before they happen?
Before we talk about solutions, let’s examine some of the facts and statistics surrounding these types of storefront crashes.
Storefront Crash Statistics
Since vehicle-into-building crashes are so rarely discussed, that must mean that they’re an uncommon occurrence affecting few people, right? If they were a major problem, we would hear more about them on a daily basis, right?
Unfortunately, no. Traffic accidents involving pedestrians are a huge problem, and storefront crashes make up a significant subset of these accidents. Let’s take a look at some startling storefront crash statistics:
- Across the country, on average, cars will come crashing through the front of buildings 60 times in a single day. When you consider the number of cars that drive past stores every day, this may seem like a relatively small percentage. However, they cause significant damage.
- Accidents of these types injure more than 4,000 individuals every year.
- Among those involved in these crashes — whether pedestrians, shoppers or drivers — up to 500 people are killed every year.
Wondering what could possibly cause so many of these accidents? The data on this is clear. The leading cause of these types of crashes, at 30 percent of total storefront crashes, is operator error. The next-most-common reasons include pedal error, followed by DUIs, traffic accidents or medical accidents. In other words, most of these accidents happen because someone made a single mistake and, as a result, people were hurt or killed, and property was damaged.
These crashes are costly. The Storefront Safety Council estimates $100 million was paid out in claims in 2015 and 2016 for storefront crashes.
Where Do Storefront Accidents Occur?
The data is also clear on where these incidents happen. It might be tempting to assume, “Accidents like that only happen at other businesses. My business is safe, surely. Something like this would never happen here.” But a quick look at the data shows this just isn’t true. The largest category of businesses affected by these crashes, at 24 percent, is retail stores. Other top categories include:
- Commercial buildings
- Convenience stores
The implication here is obvious. These crashes and incidents are not limited to one single type of business or establishment. They can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Before you know it, it could happen to your business. The result could be injury or even death for one of your employees, customers and patrons, as well as untold dollars in property damage.
Businesses That Most Commonly Suffer Storefront Crashes
Previously, we mentioned a few of the different types of establishments that tend to be most susceptible to storefront crashes. While certainly every situation is unique and it is impossible for us to know what happened in every single instance, it can be easy to make a few assumptions.
These all tend to be locations where drivers pull up close to the curb, often to pick someone up or drop someone off. In addition to this, many of these types of businesses often have small parking lots that require careful maneuvering to navigate. Couple this with the fact that these parking lots are often clogged with pedestrians, and suddenly you have the scenario where a person might accidentally hit the wrong pedal and go careening through the front of the building.
Bars and restaurants are another special case. These tend to be locations where there is a higher likelihood patrons may have had too much to drink, only to get in their car and begin driving. While certainly not every patron does this, the odds of this happening here are much higher than they would outside a church, for example. Indeed, 17 percent of storefront accidents are caused by driving under the influence.
Environmental and Location-Based Risk Factors
In addition to factors such as the type of business, other factors outside your control may play into how likely your business is to suffer from this type of crash.
Think about where your business is situated:
- Is there low visibility when trying to pull out of the parking lot and onto the road?
- Is your business located on a street that forms a wind tunnel, making handling a vehicle difficult?
- Is your parking lot small and cramped, while also experiencing a high volume of traffic?
All of these and more are factors that could play into the likelihood of your business experiencing a storefront crash. While some of these are outside of your control, such as the wind patterns along your road, others you can influence. For example, if your parking lot is too small for the number of patrons or customers you serve on a regular basis, it might be best to expand.
An Example of How Driver Errors Cause Storefront Crashes
To illustrate with an example that shows some of these statistics at work in the real world, let’s consider a sample case. While there are hundreds to choose from, we will look at an incident that occurred at a pharmacy in Maryland in 2018.
In this incident, the driver had parked in front of the pharmacy, according to police. Instead of putting the car into reverse to pull out of the spot, the driver went forward. The result? Broken windows and equipment and products that were sent flying.
This fits with the statistics, which say 26 percent of storefront accidents are due to pedal error. This is just one of the countless examples of storefront crashes that happen every day nationwide and around the world.
How to Prevent Storefront Crashes
If crashes like this are happening every day around the world, should we assume they are inevitable and there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop them? Certainly not. While there will always be unpredictable incidents and freak accidents no one can predict or prevent, there is so much we can do to create spaces that greatly decrease the likelihood of events such as these. All it takes is a little defensive urban design to create a space that’s safer, more responsible and better for everyone involved.
That may involve barriers to prevent storefront crashes or rethinking parts of your storefront. Here are just a few of the steps that can be taken to increase safety.
1. Rearrange Your Parking Lot
One of the ways you can decrease the odds of someone driving through your front door is by doing a bit of rearranging of your parking lot. Picture a gas station, convenience store, restaurant or bar. Think about all the times you’ve seen parking spots that require the nose of the car to be pulled directly up to the building itself. While it might not seem obvious, there’s a huge risk involved here.
When we looked at the most common causes of storefront crashes earlier, we determined that one of the most frequent reasons behind these accidents was pedal error, as in the example. Imagine how disastrous this can be if someone is parked with the nose of the car directly up against the building. If they hit the gas by mistake, the car will crash right into the building.
To decrease the odds of this happening, rearrange your parking lot to eliminate these parking spaces altogether. If you need to, expand your parking lot to create new spaces to replace any nose-in spots you’ll lose. If you cannot eliminate these spots due to regulations, try to minimize them as much as possible.
2. Create Security Barriers for Pedestrian Safety
Security barriers to prevent storefront crashes are another great tool you can implement in a design. These serve a dual purpose by creating visual reminders that help keep cars stay in their spaces and pedestrians in theirs. If a vehicle breaches the barrier, it will at least slow the vehicle down and help protect the pedestrians behind the barrier.
There are many different types of barriers that can be implemented, depending on your specific needs. Some are barely more than decorative. These will be a good visual reminder but will likely not provide much protection if an actual crash does occur. Others are more heavy-duty and will do some serious damage to a car that crashes into them.A barrier might be a gate, or it might be a strong fence. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and, as such, there are plenty of types of barriers out there so you can choose the one that is best suited for your situation.There is also no one single best way to implement security barriers into your defensive designs:
- You might set them up around outdoor seating areas or pedestrian entryways.
- You might place them along sidewalks.
- You might use them to section off parking lots.
You know the needs of your business best, and thus you will be the best suited to find the most effective means of implementing these safety barriers. When used correctly, they can be an enormous asset and make the area safer for driver, pedestrians and patrons alike.
3. Implement Security Bollards Into Your Storefront Design
Bollards are an extremely versatile tool that can perform many different functions and provide an additional level of security as well as aesthetic improvement to any location. Never heard of a bollard? They are short posts used to direct or keep traffic out of a certain area.
Have you seen short yellow or gray posts with rounded tops sticking up along the sidewalk at your local gas station or convenience store? These are bollards. While there are many types of bollards, this is the type you may be most familiar with. They provide a barrier that prevents vehicles from driving into certain spaces, such as a sidewalk or a yard. Because of this, bollards are an excellent tool you would be wise to utilize as you attempt to construct a design that will keep everyone a little safer.Bollards are all rated in terms of how much protection they offer from potential crashes. Whenever you buy a bollard, its crash rating will be available. This means that you will always know how much protection you get from the bollard you’ve chosen. To be assigned a crash rating, bollards are tested against impacts from vehicles. The latest standards include tests at lower than 30 mph, because low-speed impact is of particular concern in cases such as pedal error.
Here are just a few of the different types of bollards available that you might choose to use in your defensive urban design.
As you might expect from the name, these bollards include a special lighting feature that stands out even in the darkest nights. Use these lighted bollards to line the sidewalk or barricade off areas where pedestrians walk outside your building. This way, even if it’s dark, drivers will be able to see and avoid pedestrians. While any type of location can benefit from the extra illumination provide by lighted bollards, they make a particularly great choice if your site experiences a high volume of traffic at night.
In addition to their functionality as a tool for decreasing storefront crashes at night, lighted bollards can also be quite beautiful. They can help light up the exterior of your building and provide an aesthetic bonus, making your building a little more attractive to everyone driving past.
Fixed bollards remain secured in place, no matter what. They can be made out of steel, aluminum or a variety of other materials and are a great way to mark off spaces where cars should not enter. One of the advantages of this type of bollard is how sturdy it is. These bollards aren’t just designed to be a visual reminder. They’re also a great line of protection if a rogue car attempts to breach this barrier — whether through accident or intent.
These fixed bollards are perfect in many different situations, although they may be more efficient during the day than the night. Because they don’t have the lighting feature, they may become slightly more difficult to see at night.
Removable bollards are a unique subset of bollards that have the special ability to remain unfixed and un-permanent. While fixed bollards always stay in place, these can be removed or set up as demanded by the specific occasion.
Because of this special ability, removable bollards are uniquely suited for use as barriers and gates that you only need on an occasional basis. For example, if you’re planning the layout for a government building and there are certain hours where you don’t want to allow any traffic into the parking lot, removable bollards make a good choice to section off the lot.
These are a specific subset of removable bollards. While removable bollards typically need to be removed by hand, automatic bollards utilize a mechanism that allows them to retract into the ground automatically. The advantage here is obvious — these bollards are more convenient and less time-consuming.
Regarding potential applications, the ideal spaces for automatic bollards are similar to what they’d be for removable bollards. The only true difference between these two categories is the extra level of ease and convenience afforded by the automatic varieties.
Why Storefront Safety Is More Important Than Ever for Businesses Today
This concern about storefront crashes is not a new trend. It is a growing one, however, and it is not happening in isolation. Around the globe, governments and organizational bodies are becoming increasingly concerned with the safety of pedestrians and other bystanders. This is not without good reason. In the next 24 hours, on average, 430 people will be treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained in a pedestrian-related car accident.
While it would be wonderful to live in a world where there was no need to worry about such things, the unfortunate reality is pedestrians today are in more danger than ever. Between car crashes that are true accidents and other incidents, such as tragic intentional vehicular terrorist attacks, people are becoming more and more aware that additional measures need to be taken to protect pedestrians from harm caused by traffic crashes.
Cities are increasingly recognizing something needs to be done to keep bystanders safe. New York, Paris and Washington D.C. are just a few of the many towns beginning to implement bollards, barriers and other security measures into the city’s design. While these measures will need to be supported by public awareness and continued action, they represent a powerful first step toward creating cities, buildings and spaces where pedestrians can walk freely without fearing their safety may be in danger.
Find High-Quality Bollards for Your Building or Building Project
Storefront crashes and other types of vehicular incidents involving pedestrians are a real danger. If you own any kind of business, are designing any building or otherwise have any say in creating a space where pedestrians will be near moving vehicles, then these accidents are a threat you’ll need to take seriously.
If you want to keep your patrons, clients, customers and employees safe, it might be time to think about how you can implement bollards and other security measures into your building design. Not sure where to shop for bollards? Then we’d like to introduce you to our products at Blockaides.
We pride ourselves on stocking the very highest quality of American-made bollards. We sell a wide range of different styles, including lighted, removable, automatic, fixed and more. No matter what industry your business is in or what your outdoor space looks like, we guarantee bollards will make it a little safer and a little more functional.
Ready to get started with your shopping? Browse our full catalog of bollards today to get started finding the perfect addition to your building, and don’t forget to contact us for your free custom quote.