Like everything else in the digital age, it’s hard to tell whether it’s happening more often, or just being seen on our cellphones more often. South Dakotans seem to be crashing cars into buildings.

Every day in the U.S. there are about 60 vehicle-versus-building crashes on average. According to Ameriprise Insurance, more than 500 people are killed every year when cars crash into businesses. Only about 63 people die from earthquakes, tornadoes and lightning strikes combined.

South Dakotans crashing into buildings

On April 24, a loyal customer smashed through a Rapid City Thrifty Smoke Shop after mistaking the gas for the brake. No injuries, but the car was totaled.

On May 10 in Rapid City, an unknown number of teens all under 16 smashed a car into a house, doing extensive damage. Most fled the scene and the driver was charged with hit-and-run and reckless driving.

On June 14, 2019 an 80-year-old woman mistook the gas for the brake and crashed into a Sioux Falls beauty salon, causing minor injuries to a 53-year-old employee inside the business. The driver was cited for careless driving.

On July 11, a 21-year-old woman crashed a car into Minerva’s restaurant in Sioux Falls, causing $15,000 in damage to the building. She told police her brakes went out. She was cited for driving with no license or insurance.

Causes are well known

A look at the most common causes of car-versus-storefront crashes suggests their number may increase rapidly over the coming years. The easy availability of measures to protect customers essentially puts businesses on notice. To avoid being held accountable for negligence in civil suits they should think clearly and quickly about guarding against cars crashing into their buildings.

Risk Management recently used statistics from the Storefront Safety Council to predict that the aging population and increasingly distracted drivers will make crashes and deaths from building “incursions” more common with time.

Drivers with under five years of driving experience and drivers over 70 commit the biggest share of vehicle incursions into buildings. About 56% of crashes are from driver errors such as “pedal error” including confusing brakes and gas pedals.

Protections and prevention are relatively easy

Design changes are not usually very expensive and business owners’ insurance companies may reward them. Avoiding parking spots and other geometry that points car noses directly at buildings is strongly encouraged. Steel bollards and other barriers that can keep buildings and pedestrians on one side and cars on another may save lives and avoid lawsuits.