August 5, 2015

Easy Lessons

Editor's Note: This post is co-published on the Storefront Safety Council blog.

Car crashed into office, Parklawn Drive, Rockville, Md.
(Source: Montgomery County Fire Dept., May 2015)
It’s so easy to think we’ll be coming back when we walk out the door in the morning, isn’t it? As we grab our keys and turn that lock, we say to ourselves, “Oh, I’ll do that later,” or “I’ll make that phone call when I get home tonight.”

That’s what I thought, too, when I left to start what I assumed would be a normal day in August 2008. Little did I know that just a few hours later, I’d get hit by a car as it crashed through the doors of my favorite nearby 7-Eleven. I didn't come through my own front door again until many weeks later, after spending time in two hospitals and two nursing homes.

It would be nice now, seven years later, to just chalk that experience up to a life-lesson learned or a weird fluke that just a few of us experience. But when I heard in the news about a car that crashed into a building recently just down the street from where I once worked, I was reminded that this problem is not a rare fluke. In fact, it’s all too common.

This particular incident wasn’t very different from those you can read about throughout the pages here of or on “An elderly woman smashed her car through a Rockville, Maryland, parking garage and into a physical therapy office,” according to one of the TV news reports.

(Source: Montgomery County Fire Dept., May 2015)
Unfortunately, she injured herself as well as others, particularly a receptionist at the PT office — sitting at her desk doing her work like any other seemingly normal day — who was pinned under a desk and debris by the crash.

Two things grabbed my attention about this incident.

First, on a personal level, it was right in my old stomping grounds, maybe a hundred yards from my former office. So, do I feel like these crashes are hitting pretty close to home? Yeah. Going through it once was one time too many — no need for a repeat.

Second, and more importantly, the fire department public information officer made a seldom-voiced observation to the news media while he was on scene.

He said, “There’s not much of a barrier,” as he looked at the vehicle’s path. “There’s a parking space, a little cement, the sidewalk, a grassy area and then the building. It didn’t take much effort to get in there.”

If by some miracle you, dear reader, happen to be a commercial property owner or an architect, please…read his remarks again. Very little stood between a moving vehicle and an innocent receptionist on the other side of a glass window.

(Source: Montgomery County Fire Dept., May 2015)
I’ll refrain from getting preachy here. Suffice it to say that one of the common elements in most vehicle-into-building crashes (especially those that lead to injuries or deaths) is the lack of any sufficient barrier to protect pedestrians and building occupants from an out-of-control car.

Putting bollards or other appropriate standards-based barriers between people, buildings, and parking spaces is easy. Almost as easy as walking out the door in the morning thinking we’ll be coming back later.

Learn more at the Storefront Safety Council website.

July 23, 2015

Your Support Needed for Young Crash Victim

Jessica Bunch dreamed of joining the U.S. Marine Corp. A 79-year-old driver who hit the gas instead of the brake ran over Jessica as she stood at a Redbox movie-vending machine earlier this month. Her injuries were terrible. The driver was not charged. You can learn more, and contribute toward her quickly ballooning medical bills, via this page set up by her father on Give Forward. (Image source: Bunch family's page.)

May 6, 2014

Email Change

Just a quick housekeeping note to let you know that I'm retiring the mark 'at' email address — the first of several changes coming for this site over the next couple of months.

Feel free to email me at my business address anytime, though: mark 'at'

March 20, 2014

Welcome, NAIOP Readers!

Photo of Wintergreen Plaza in Rockville, Md.,
by Mark Wright, courtesy of NAIOP.
Thanks to NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, for the opportunity to spotlight the vehicle-into-building crash problem in the spring issue of Development Magazine.

The article by Rob Reiter and me went live online March 20, plus will be in the print edition sent to NAIOP members: How Safe Is Your Parking Lot?

As risk control expert David Natalizia said in the article, “This is an important issue that may have been beneath the radar because of the difficulty in understanding its magnitude and scope.”

And parking design consultant Warren Vander Helm observed, “There is no reason why a design for an average parking area has to include nose-in parking,” which is one of the primary contributing factors in storefront crashes.

March 13, 2014

SXSW Tragedy Spotlighted in The Atlantic Cities

Image via The Atlantic Cities, posted to Twitter by @ColinKerrigan
Thanks to Rob Reiter's fast action and Sarah Goodyear's fast writing, the murderous results of a driver who drove through a crowd of people at the SXSW music festival early this morning in Austin, Texas, are getting the attention they deserve with a focus on the need for pedestrian protection. Here's Sarah's article today in The Atlantic Cities: We're Shamefully Bad at Protecting Pedestrians at Events Like SXSW. Kudos to Rob and Sarah for highlighting the problem.

March 6, 2014

Change Coming Soon

At the end of June, this site will officially become an archive rather than a blog. I'll also simultaneously hand over my admin keys to the Storefront Safety Council LinkedIn group and the Council's website, coordinating with co-founder Rob Reiter on the details as I transition out.

While my concern about vehicle-into-building crashes remains strong, I've hit a point in life where I need to make some changes — including wrapping up the project and taking off my Council co-founder hat.

I have truly cherished your attention and feedback since I launched this blog after my own accident recovery several years ago. Knowing that the information here has aided attorneys representing crash victims and provided some businesses with tips on how to protect their storefront from vehicle collisions has also been rewarding.

Likewise, I've been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to team up with Rob Reiter in launching the Storefront Safety Council LinkedIn group (he has near-singlehandedly sustained it with regular postings) and in collaborating on articles for industry publications.

Speaking of articles, we have one coming out in NAIOP's Development Magazine on March 17, which I'll cover in a new post here on that date. Rob also appears to have the editor of an insurance industry magazine interested in an article from us, due in May, so I will post about that as well down the road.

Why did I pick the end of June for my official wrap-up date? Because I turn 57 then (God willing). I was 51 when I got hit. One of the biggest lessons that experience taught me: we're never guaranteed another birthday, so make the most of the time we're given.

Every year, many lives end, or are profoundly changed, because of the flaws in our built environment that leave people exposed to errant drivers and moving vehicles. I'm not giving up on searching for prevention and protection strategies. But I am changing my approach.

Thanks again for your continued interest.