EXCLUSIVE: Vehicle barriers: the new imperative

Vehicle barriers - from Barrier1 Systems

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Mark Borto, CEO of Barrier1 Systems discusses how vehicle barriers can act as a preventative force against vehicle ramming incidents.

Vehicle ramming

A vehicle ramming incident is a multifaceted threat that comes with widespread risks if left unaddressed.

From property damage to loss of life, the use of a vehicle to cause damage intentionally or unintentionally is nothing new yet growing in frequency.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), more than 7,500 pedestrians were killed by drivers in 2022 in the US, the highest number in more than 40 years.

That means that every day, 20 people walk outside and end up being killed by a moving vehicle.

What’s more, the Storefront Safety Council reports that storefront crashes occur more than 100 times each day across the country, resulting in as many as 16,000 injuries and 2,600 deaths annually.

Extrapolate this data and that comes out to over 43 injuries and as many as 7.1 fatalities a day caused by a vehicle crashing into a storefront.

Fortunately, vehicle barriers offer a proven solution, mitigating a myriad of safety and security risks with just a single deployment.

Understanding the need

The causes of ramming incidents range widely, but generally fall into two categories: accidental and deliberate.

Accidental causes of vehicle crashes, including pedal error, operator error and medical emergencies, are the leading causes of storefront crashes.

Pedal error, or the act of pressing the accelerator pedal instead of the brake pedal while attempting to park or slow down, specifically contributes to 20% of storefront crashes and is a common occurrence at convenience stores.

This is largely due to the nature of a typical convenience store visit wherein customers are parking directly in front of the store and in a rush to get back on the road.

Accidental vehicle ramming incidents can occur anytime, anywhere. It could be a distracted driver veering into an outdoor dining patio or a rainy night impeding a driver’s ability to see obstacles properly.

In these cases, the only type of protection for municipalities and businesses is preventative action taken by installing vehicle barrier solutions. 

When an individual behind the wheel of a vehicle is deliberately intending to cause harm, the consequences can be even more catastrophic than unintentional accidents.

Deliberate incidents, whether motivated by terrorism, criminal intent or personal grievances, pose significant threats to public safety and property.

While these incidents may differ in their intention, they require the same level of preventative protection.

Perhaps the most horrific and tragic is the use of a vehicle to commit acts of terror.

In 2021, Darrell E. Brooks Jr. sent shockwaves through the country when he drove an SUV through an annual Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing six people and injuring 62 others.

Police said the SUV “appeared to be intentionally moving side to side” and witnesses felt this was “a direct intent to hit as many parade participants as possible”.

Similar attacks have been conducted throughout the world, instigated by individuals with political or terroristic motivations.

Recognizing the risks

Regardless of intention, the risks of storefront crashes and vehicle ramming accidents remain the same.

Cities, especially proclaimed smart cities, have an obligation to their citizens and visitors to protect them from all known threats.

It is imperative to prioritize the deployment of physical vehicle barriers that mitigate the risk of intentional and unintentional personal injury.

Beyond public safety, liability risks threaten private businesses that fail to take action against the danger of vehicle ramming.

In a real-world example, a customer of a renowned convenience store chain became the victim of a tragic “pedal error” accident wherein a distracted driver allowed their vehicle to surge forward, pinning the customer’s legs against the store’s front wall.

Had crash-rated bollards been installed around the store’s perimeter, this accident could have been averted entirely.

As the chain retailer was found to be willfully negligent in allowing these sorts of accidents to occur, the subsequent settlement reached an eye-watering $91 million, emphasizing the immense financial impact that could have been avoided with the deployment of crash rated vehicle barriers.

Property damage is also caused by a vehicle crashing into a building or storefront.

Facilities might require security guards to prevent unauthorized entry through the damaged area and property damage may cause extended downtime for retail businesses.

The perception of an unsafe environment can erode public trust and confidence in the affected business and potentially diminish its reputation.

Vehicle barrier solutions based on application

Vehicle barriers are the only proven security solutions that can physically prevent the various impacts and risks of ramming incidents.

Bollards are traditionally found surrounding store entrances, gas pumps, parks, high-profile buildings, outdoor dining and other pedestrian-heavy locales.

However, it is important to note that all bollards are not created equal.

Many business owners, general contractors and security providers will install steel pipes filled with concrete as a low-cost alternative to crash-rated bollards, giving the appearance of an effective barrier solution while failing to provide real protection.

Conversely, crash-rated bollards undergo rigorous testing and are rated by standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

These standards require physically testing the impact of specific weight vehicles traveling at various speeds into the vehicle barriers and assessing crashworthiness based on the penetration distance beyond the barrier.

Installing ASTM tested and rated bollards therefore prevents vehicle ramming incidents.

When it comes to temporary communal events such as street festivals, parades and weekend farmers markets, mobile crash-rated barriers are an ideal solution due to their portable yet effective nature.

Mobile barriers provide event organizers with the flexibility to create secure perimeters and safeguard against potential vehicle ramming threats, all while preserving the welcoming atmosphere of community gatherings.

Solutions in this category range widely to include mobile wedge barriers, surface set drop arms and quick connect cable barriers.

Lastly, high security vehicle barriers are designed specifically for controlled access at some of the world’s most critical facilities, which includes military operations, critical infrastructure and government installations.

High-security vehicle barriers often carry a superior ASTM crash rating of M50-P1, signifying a barrier’s ability to stop a 15,000 pound truck traveling at 50mph with the vehicle penetrating less than 3ft into the protected zone after impact.

Widespread implications

Following an incident like the 2021 attack on the Waukesha Christmas parade or the convenience store accident, often the first question asked is: “What could have been done to prevent such an accident?”

Crash-rated vehicle barriers provide a simple answer.

Given the rise in such incidents and their known risks, it has become evident that implementing field-proven and crash tested vehicle barriers is not merely an option, but a new security imperative.

This article was originally published in the November edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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