How the !*@& do cars hit buildings?!
Tuesday morning. 9:50 a.m.. Egg Harbor Township. Outside a Social Security office.
A car whose driver was presumably attempting to park suddenly accelerates and crosses over a sidewalk, into and straight through the outer wall of the building. The car came to rest "well inside" the building according to the news report by Adam Hochron.
One person was critically injured, one seriously, and 18 more with minor injuries. When we hear a story like this, we jump to the conclusion that it was an elderly driver. Not always. In this case the driver was a 56 year old woman from Atlantic City. Police are still looking into how it happened.
These stories are crazy to me. Outside of a major mechanical failure I find there to be no reason a car should ever collide with a huge inanimate structure many times its size. You certainly know the building is there, because that's why you're parking. You certainly didn't have it "come out of nowhere" like a deer. Yet this happens far more often than we realize.
Here's an amazing statistic. In the United States, 60 car into building crashes happen every single day. That's 21,900 times per year someone, somehow manages to drive their vehicle straight into a huge, unmoving building. All things being equal this means Jersey would represent on average more than 600 such crashes every year.
When I lived in Michigan I drove past this lamp store every day on my way to work. One day I noticed the entire front of the store had plywood and police tape everywhere. Sure enough, someone drove right through the wall. Imagine all the glass. Here in New Jersey I've been to the same Goodyear on 202 in Flemington that was the scene of such carnage. A woman trying to park her car instead burst right through the wall and came to rest inside the waiting area of the shop. The car stopped just short of the front desk and it was a miracle no one was killed.
So how does this happen? Is the Egg Harbor Township case the exception that proves the rule and age really is a factor? Only somewhat. Forty-four percent of drivers who crash into buildings are 60 or older. And states with the highest number of elderly drivers do have the highest number of storefront crashes. However twenty percent of these types of crashes involve drivers in their 20's. So age isn't the entire story.
What's more, 17% of these crashes are due to drunk driving, 11% due to an initial traffic accident which then sends a vehicle into a building, and another 8% due to medical emergencies. The vast majority though, simple operator error; confusing one pedal for another. If I'm ever so absent-minded as to drive straight through the wall of a giant building I don't know that I'd ever trust myself again to be behind the wheel.
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