Texas 4th in nation for vehicles crashing into buildings

Institute looks at new ways to prevent dangers from crashes

By Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - Almost every day around Houston a vehicle crashes into a building.  In April alone, Channel 2 reported on nearly 20 incidents.

A few examples: On April 15, a car slammed into an insurance agency. On April 17, a car crashed into a baby's bedroom and on April 24 an SUV hit a doughnut  shop. 

On Feb. 26, an 84-year-old driver crashed into Blossom's Floral Design on Woodway. Months later, Channel 2 anchor Andy Cerota checked in with the shop owner, Cindy Peters. 

Peters recalled the event, "I was like, 'What the heck is going on?' All of a sudden there's this crash, bang and there's a vehicle in my store." 

"She came through the glass doors, through this wall, and just smashed into our cooler, which is basically what stopped her," Peters said. "Oh my God, I was so worried somebody was hurt. The driver and her husband were OK."

 There were no injuries, but month's later Peters is still making repairs to her business.

"We're right at $40,000," Peters said. 

The storefront Safety Council found Texas ranks fourth in the nation for vehicles crashing into buildings.

A statistic that might surprise is younger drivers, between 20 and 30 years old, are responsible for the most at 18 percent. Only 13 percent of the crashes are caused by elderly drivers.

Pedal error is the No. 1 cause. Operator error and driving under the influence tied for second.

"[Nationwide] there are approximately 60 of these crashes a day, where a vehicle enters into a building," said Michael Brackin, with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. "There are almost 500 deaths a year."

By using crash test after crash test, researchers at TTI are looking at new ways to prevent these dangerous situations across the country.

TTI is working to develop low-speed barriers. They'd be placed outside buildings to protect the people inside and outside.

"It could be a security asset, military asset, police department, a school, daycare," said Brackin.

Some may have already seen similar set-ups around town, like the giant red barriers outside Target stores. But how effective are they?

Columns couldn't stop a driver from ramming into the doughnut shop.

And in Peter's case, pillars and a giant planter didn't stop a car from careening into her store.

"She missed the pots, you know, the columns and everything, and just went swoosh, here she came," said Peters.

So now, for the first time, TTI is coming up with a standard to make sure protective measures actually work. Testing will begin in the next two to three months. 

"We've lost business, we've lost merchandise, dealing with the insurance people and all the mess," Peters said. "You just pick up the pieces and go on." 

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