December 2, 2013

Somebody Call MythBusters!

Image source: Amazon.com
Ben Ross, author and VP of the Action Committee for Transit, made a great point about how bright colors don't seem to prevent drivers from crashing into storefronts, much less improve pedestrian safety, in his post last month on the Greater Greater Washington blog (Do bright clothes stop car crashes? Not at Dunkin' Donuts).

“Cars colliding with buildings should not be a normal part of life. They are a signal that our highway system is seriously out of whack,” he wrote.

Ross noted (with a link to our July 2013 'case study' post about Starbucks) Rob Reiter's suggestion of bollards as one solution.

He also recognized that the vehicle-into-building crash problem isn't limited to Dunkin' Donuts or any other name-brand storefront.

Driver Accountability
So, if bright colors don't seem to help, and businesses are not (yet) flocking to bollard companies, what the heck might work? Ross signaled one possibility in the form of holding drivers more accountable.

“It should be easy to assign fault when car and store collide,” he wrote. Yet police often decline to cite drivers who run into buildings, for various reasons.

As much as I sympathize with the need to hold drivers more accountable, I also wonder: Would more citations change behavior? Would common knowledge of the penalty suffered by one driver serve as a deterrent to other drivers? I'd love to think it would, however, court dockets are full of DUI arrests despite common knowledge of the serious penalties for drinking and driving.

My pessimism about available deterrents leads me back to the place where parking spot and storefront meet. What can be done there to protect people when drivers hit the wrong pedal or make some other mistake that launches their vehicle through the window of a Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks or small mom-and-pop business?

Bollards or other standards-tested barriers? Sure. But you knew I'd say that.

MythBusters to the Rescue?
Image source: Discovery Channel
So, here's an admittedly whimsical thought (not at all meant to make light of the problem, of course). Maybe we should contact the guys on Discovery Channel's MythBusters show and ask them to run a 'controlled' experiment.

The experiment would test the effectiveness of driver-attention strategies in front of simulated-storefront parking spaces.
  • Strategy A: Really give that bright-color idea a workout (despite the apparent flaws of the approach, as Ross pointed out with the pink-and-orange Dunkin' Donuts store colors). Maybe paint the curb and the ubiquitous-but-ineffective wheel stops a shocking shade of chartreuse?
  • Strategy B: Position inflatable “dancing” tube men between storefront windows and parking spaces. (Hey, according to the Wall Street Journal, this strategy is working great to scare birds. Why not to keep drivers alert, too?)
  • And Strategy C: Anything the MythBusters crew wants to try! New ideas are welcome.
Which one do you think would win? (Personally, I'm curious to see what Strategy C might produce.)

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more that drivers need to be held accountable in these building crash cases.

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