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Vehicles Hitting Buildings: A Trend?

Most motor vehicle accidents fall into two categories: rear end collisions and intersection collisions involving left turners. At the other end of the statistics, but often at the top of the headlines, are freakish accidents, typically involving a motor vehicle cutting a wide path of destruction and coming to rest inside a bedroom or convenience store instead of on the side of the road.

There may be no consistent explanation for the runaway vehicle scenario, beyond a loss of control by the driver based on some type of impairment or carelessness. Here are some examples of this pattern of accidents:
  • January 11, 2004 — White Rock – Pickup truck driven by an elderly man with diabetes who has a seizure smashes into house in which none of the occupants are home.
  • August 3, 2004 — Delta – Car loses control, flies off the road, rumbles over jetsam and crashes into historic waterfront home along the Fraser River. Cause not reported.
  • August 5, 2004 — Burnaby – Driverless tractor-trailer loaded with steel rolls through busy intersection shearing off a light and sign standard, crashes through a fence and misses a townhouse by a metre.
  • October 2004 — Vancouver – Car bounces on to the sidewalk outside a downtown 7-Eleven and crashes into a cement garbage bin sending it flying through the store’s window. Cause not reported.
  • April 29, 2005 — Vancouver – SUV driver who reportedly suffers a seizure veers off Howe Street, runs into and kills a pregnant pedestrian on the sidewalk before swiping three newspaper boxes and landing on opposite side of the intersection in front of the Viva Tower.
  • May 8, 2005 — Vancouver – 79-year-old woman drives through a downtown 7-Eleven window severely injuring the clerk working inside. 
  • June 21, 2005 — Victoria – Car jumps curb on downtown street and strikes several people on the sidewalk, killing a woman and injuring, among others a baby boy and his mother. Reports suggest that alcohol not a factor but street racing may be.
  • June 22, 2005 — Coquitlam – Fully loaded dump truck loses control and crashes into a townhouse. Only the driver is injured.
  • June 25, 2005 — Summerland – SUV driver fleeing a roadside check stop runs into corner bedroom, kills sleeping couple and sustains serious injuries himself.
Is this a trend? It may be, in the sense that this type of bizarre event will become more frequent with the inevitable increase in traffic.
Can the problem of vehicles crashing into buildings be prevented? Some obvious steps may be taken. For example, particularly vulnerable buildings and residential areas may have defensive barriers set up. Also, the process for licensing of drivers may put more emphasis on identifying physical challenges that could lead to a driver losing control. Finally, though, the real solution would be some sort of “dead man’s throttle” in the vehicle, activated to stop the vehicle when it is no longer on a suitable path. This latter suggestion involves a huge technological innovation unlikely to be seen for many years.

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