May 16, 2016

Thanks, Reliance Foundry!

Raising awareness about the human side of storefront crashes is as important as talking about technical and policy issues. So, kudos to British Columbia, Canada-based Reliance Foundry for helping on that front with its recent blog post (Hit By a Car: Surviving a Storefront Crash) — featuring my own story.

Being a poster boy makes me squirm in my chair a little, but...it was a great opportunity to help push the cause forward. Thanks to Jeremy Bradley and Bryce Tarling from Reliance Foundry's communications team for inviting me to share my 2008 accident experience, and for their patient professionalism during the interviews.

February 10, 2016

Welcome

Sometimes a cause is too important to abandon, even though one's efforts in advancing it over the years wax and wane as life's demands and transitions absorb more time and attention. So it is for me with the problem of vehicle-into-building crashes. The intensity of my focus has brightened and dimmed, repeatedly, since I was hit in 2008. The flame of my concern nonetheless remains.

I commend Storefront Safety Council co-founder and safety expert Rob Reiter for having continued the effort, unabated, to not only shine a spotlight on the problem but also to continually add to his data on the frequency of these crashes.

Likewise, a big thanks goes to the news media for it's coverage of the issue. It's been a privilege to serve as a resource for reporters and producers.

Kudos also to Kimberly Reiter for doing a great job building and maintaining the StorefrontSafety.org website. It is now a much more robust online home for crash examples and safety tips than my own site here, particularly as many of the links to newspaper and TV stories on specific crashes featured in my older posts have gone dormant. (Some media outlets keep their older content online for years, while others delete it more quickly.)

As I've noted before, many lives are profoundly changed month after month because of the flaws in our built environment that leave people exposed to errant drivers and out-of-control vehicles. The need to implement prevention and protection strategies continues.

If you are landing here for the first time...welcome. I hope my archived material will prove useful for you. And if you're visiting simply to see if a light still shines in the window...thanks as always for your continued interest.

Either way, by all means go visit Rob's sites. And you can still reach me at: mark [at] wrightscontent.com.

—Mark

(Image credit: The original photo came from a candle company via Amazon.com, but has been significantly altered for use on this site.)

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 storefrontcrashes.com or on storefrontsafety.org: “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 Corps. 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 giveforward.com page.)

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.