As many as 100 vehicles crash into buildings every day in America, according to an audit by risk management company CHC Global of data gathered by the Storefront Safety Council. That number reflects an upward revision of the Council’s previous estimate that vehicles crash into buildings 60 times per day; it also reflects a total of at least 36,500 vehicle-into-building crashes every year. The Council’s co-founder Rob Reiter believes these crashes result in 16,000 people injured every year, and at least 2,500 annual fatalities, according to a recent report by Slate.
While they’re shocking, these numbers are also valuable. As that Slate report notes, accurate data on vehicle-into-building crashes can help improve street design and storefront architecture. While some experts expressed skepticism about the Storefront Safety Council’s figures, Slate noted that the statistics corresponded with 1973 findings by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which at the time estimated that there were 20,000 to 40,000 such incidents annually. “Doubling those numbers to account for the national growth in vehicle miles traveled puts HUD’s low bound in line with Reiter’s,” per Slate.
As an analysis by Streetsblog notes, the dearth of data points to policy problems. “When it comes to vehicle-into-building crashes, it’s not even clear when law enforcement officers are supposed to report collisions to federal agencies,” the analysis observes, “and when they do, that data isn’t always made available to the public at large in any legible way.” For instance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s annual report on car crash fatalities and injuries omits incidents on private property, “including parking lots and driveways.” The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, meanwhile, only records “the ‘most harmful events,” according to Streetsblog. Whereas the NHTSA reported 210 such incidents in 2020 under that “confusing standard,” the Storefront Safety Council records 200-250 each month, drawing from news reports, anecdotal reports, court filings, academic studies, and fire department records.
And even these figures might represented an undercount: as Slate notes, a Texas Traffic Institute found that “the nation’s 7-11 stores were absorbing more than one car crash a day,” of which the Council recorded only a fraction. The CHC Global’s audit ultimately concluded that Reiter’s organization might in fact have been logging a mere one in 91 crashes.