Police: number of vehicles crashing into buildings ‘not unusual’
According to Capt. Patrick McKenna, at approximately 5:45 p.m., an 89-year-old female driver accidentally backed her Chevrolet Cavalier into the side of the Village Square Apartments, at 5403 Main St. near South Long Street.
McKenna said the woman struck a car and a fire pit before the vehicle hit the wall of the apartment building. He said there were no injuries as a result of the incident.
Although there have been more than 30 incidents involving vehicles striking commercial buildings, garages or residential units in the past year, McKenna said the figure is not out of the ordinary.
“We usually average about 30 to 35 of these types of incidents,” he said. “Some years are a little higher, and some are a little less. It doesn’t seem like there are any more than usual though.”
In one of the most tragic incidents of the past year, a husband and wife died on Sept. 17 at Cheeburger Cheeburger on Niagara Falls Boulevard, as a result of injuries incurred after a vehicle crashed into the restaurant. Their son was also injured.
The crash was the first of several to occur within five days that involved a vehicle striking a building. In September, there were five such incidents — the highest number in any month throughout the past year.
“I think what happened was we had a large volume of them in September, and it seemed like it was becoming more frequent,” McKenna said. “However, if you take the number of them to occur throughout the year, it ends up being about the same.”
Each month had at least one incident, except for April, when none were reported.
In a breakdown of age groups:
• Approximately 31 percent of the drivers at fault in the collisions were between the ages of 16 and 45.
• About 25 percent of drivers at fault were between 46 and 65.
• Approximately 44 percent of the drivers at fault were at least 66 years or older.
Separating incidents by gender, approximately 59 percent of the drivers found at fault were women while 41 percent were men.
In addition to the fatalities at Cheeburger Cheeburger, there were separate occurrences of drivers severely damaging the Main-Transit fire hall at 6777 Main St., in August, and Kenwin Liquor Store, at 2182 Kensington Ave., in September.
McKenna said that while 32 incidents of vehicles crashing into buildings is the usual number for Amherst, he said other communities do seem to have a lower number of these occurrences.
He said the disparity could be because the town has major commercial areas and roads that lead to entrances for interstates 90, 290 and 990.
“It could be that in Amherst we have many more main roads that people use to drive to and from work in addition to our regular population,” he said. “We have a large number of drivers on the road.”
He added that he does agree with the Town Council examining the possibility of mandating bollards for new buildings.
Bollards are posts set in cement that provide a barrier between a parking area and a building, and can possibly prevent vehicles from damaging a structure or injuring patrons.
Following an incident on May 28 in which a vehicle crashed into and damaged a wall at Milos Restaurant, 5877 Main St., at Highland Drive in Williamsville, Thomas Ketchum, Amherst’s commissioner of building, said the town is currently preparing legislation involving bollards.
He said the law would mandate bollards be installed for new buildings depending on the distance between parking spaces and a structure.