“Elderly driver accidentally drives into a Game Stop in Tampa.”
“5 Injured After Car Crashes Into Plantation Restaurant.”
“Car Crashes Into Central Florida Day Care, Killing One Child.”
News outlets bill such incidents as something of an oddity or a freak accident. In truth, occurrences of vehicles smashing into storefronts, restaurants and other buildings happen far more frequently than we’d like to think. In fact, the Storefront Safety Council reports such incidents occur over 60 times every day, resulting in 4,000 injuries and 500 deaths a year.
A new study by Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) examined whether the storefront barriers and bollards many property owners install to prevent such instances are strong enough to accomplish their designed purpose.
The fact is, there is no national or state requirement or mandate to install them in front of stores or standards for how strong they have to be. Some local communities – such as Miami-Dade – have passed ordinances that amend zoning regulations to require stores to put “anti-ram fixtures” in front of shopping centers.
It wasn’t until November 2014 that ASTM (American Society for testing Materials) International approved a new manufacturing standard for barriers. By those guidelines, the barriers have to be able to withstand the force of a 5,000-pound vehicle traveling at 30 mph.
The TTI study used a test vehicle modeled after a doge pickup truck to test how a number of different bollards held up to those standards. A San Antonio news station was there to witness the tests, and found the barriers did indeed hold up to to the 30 mph force test.
The testing occurred in the same state where, last year, a young mother was killed when a 74-year-old woman drove her sport utility vehicle into a grocery store. The woman later told police she “mashed the brake,” but the car kept “going faster and it just backed on up into the store.” The woman insisted she is had no intention to hurt anyone. And that’s probably true. But it doesn’t mean there should be no repercussions. That’s why she is one of several defendants named in a wrongful death lawsuit by the young mother’s surviving family. Another defendant? The store.
The lawsuit alleges the store could have foreseen such an accident occurring and failed to take reasonable measures – i.e., set up strong bollards or other crash barriers – to minimize the risk of serious injury or death to patrons. The bollards that were in place, the lawsuit asserted, were not only defective as designed, they were poorly manufactured, poorly maintained and improperly installed.
Unfortunately in Florida, it’s still possible for any local welder or pipe supplier to make and sell these products. However, the emergence of the new ASTM standard means manufacturers and storefront property owners are on notice that there is now an accepted industry standard. Those who fail to make sure the barriers and bollards they make or install on their property fit those specifications do so at their own legal peril. Even though these newer, stronger devices may be more expensive in the short term, the long term repercussions of failing to do so are enormous.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Will storefront crash barriers protect you? Feb. 1, 2016, By Garrett Brnger, KSAT ABC-12
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