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Keven Moore: Storefront vehicle incursions occur with some frequency but they can be prevented

This past Friday in Lexington, a car crashed into Fade’s Barber Shop at the corner of W. Third and N. Upper around 6:15 a.m. Friday. A vehicle had allegedly run a red light and hit another vehicle, causing a crash into the barbershop. According to the owner, this is the 6th time in 17 years this has happened at this intersection.

In March 2022 in Ashland, a car crashed through the front window of a Subway restaurant causing significant damage to the building.

Luckily in both situations, nobody was seriously hurt but that is not always the case.

According to the latest data from the  Storefront Safety Council, (SSC) Vehicle-into-Building crashes occur 100 times a day, causing nearly 2,600 deaths and more than 16,000 injuries annually. Further, 46 percent of all storefront crashes result in an injury and eight percent result in a fatality. These figures, reviewed by Lloyd’s of London, equates to more than 36,000 storefront crashes every year in the United States.

Courtesy of Storefront.org

While we may think these happen only to private sector retail, offices, shops, and stores, consider that many federal, state, and local government buildings are also located on city streets or in retail settings, which makes them vulnerable to these crashes as well.

Like with any accident, many can easily be prevented or minimized with enough planning and regulations. In a perfect world, architectural firms should be taking the lead and begin considering traffic patterns and parking demands when designing newly constructed buildings.

The value of crash-rated bollards, planters, and site furnishing, in protecting pedestrians, outdoor dining patrons, shoppers, and employees inside stores from out-of-control vehicles cannot be disputed. Incidents where a vehicle is employed by terrorists to inflict mass casualties at large gatherings like parades, marathons, and holiday festivities further reinforce the need for and high value of crash-rated barriers. More recently, intentional vehicle crashes have increased significantly, caused by disgruntled customers, angry drivers, and thieves intent on stealing the contents of shops and stores.

Just recently with the help of SSC, “The Whole Building Design Guide” was created by the  National Institute of Building Sciences as “a gateway to up-to-date information on integrated ‘whole building’ design techniques and technologies. The goal of ‘Whole Building’ Design is to create a successful high-performance building by applying an integrated design and team approach to the project during the planning and programming phases.”

Established by the United States Congress, the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) mission is to serve the public interest by advancing building science and technology to improve the built environment. NIBS partners with seven federal agencies and dozens of academic, professional, and industry institutions to publish the WBDG and update it regularly on dozens of topics.

In July 2022, the Whole Building Design Guide chapter on “Secure/Safe” buildings was updated to include the revised data from the Storefront Safety Council on storefront crashes and vehicle-pedestrian incidents in public spaces.

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@higusa.com

Local officials should also look to set new safety code enforcement standards for all new construction at the very least, but they should also look to requiring business owners to better protect customers from storefront accident incidents.

Such retailers and restaurants with a history of storefront incursions should become more proactive when considering some of the nuclear verdicts coming from our courtrooms. Jurors today, are more inclined to rule in favor of plaintiffs and are tacking on large amounts of punitive awards that far exceed the costs of installing security bollards and concrete planters that could have prevented such an incident.

Over the last few years, the Storefront Safety Council (SSC) has been making small, incremental progress in helping to prevent vehicle-into-building crashes nationwide.

One of the most important efforts undertaken by the SSC is the gathering and collecting and reporting of unique data on private property and public area access crashes involving commercial buildings, public buildings, public and private pedestrian paths of travel, pedestrian malls, transportation nodes, and many other areas where people work, play, shop and dine.

The effort has been long and expensive, but very rewarding and increasingly effective according to co-founder Rob Reiter. Their mission is simple: “Working to end vehicle-into-building crashes.”

The SSC is made up of volunteer professionals active in safety and security, architecture, risk management, and engineering. They also have many participating organizations and firms that are experts in vehicle safety, parking lot design, and management, risk management, and premises liability law.

The SSC works to prevent vehicle-into-building crashes by promoting best practices, educating professionals and stakeholders, documenting effective risk reduction strategies, and facilitating local, municipal, and state legislation and ordinances.

But until we are all driving autonomous vehicles, this will remain a serious problem, one of which can be prevented with enough ingenuity and resolve.

Be Safe My Friends

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