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Recently, we profiled the rebuilding of a historic building on the corner of East Broadway and Shelby Street after it was hit by a speeding, wrong-way driver. With a little help from co-owners at Forza Architecture and 5253 Design Group, the building is looking as good as ever. “They built things so much more robust back then than they do now,” Stephen Tracy, principal at Forza, told Broken Sidewalk. “This building is very solid. There was never a question of whether we were going to take it down all the way.” That’s lucky for Louisville. More often, a building hit by a motorist is torn down or left severely disfigured.

It turns out that motorists hitting stationary objects—houses, stores, power lines, bridges—is exceedingly common in Louisville and across the country. According to the Storefront Safety Council, an advocacy group that keeps tabs on such crashes, motorists drive their cars into commercial buildings 60 times a day across the country (that doesn’t count houses or other objects). Those crashes claim 500 lives annually and cause over 4,000 injuries. Not to mention losses to business and the economy due to repairs or potential demolition.

Motorist vs. building research data from the Storefront Safety Council.
Motorist vs. building research data from the Storefront Safety Council.

These crashes—and the way the media covers them—helps illustrate just how much of a car-centric society we’ve become. Reading most headlines, you’d think we’ve already embraced autonomous vehicles and rogue cars are gunning for our homes. The passive voice conceals a human was involved at all. Sometimes a news story even makes the event into a sort of joke, showing just how jaded to street violence we’ve become. People’s lives are at stake here.

Worse, they illustrate how dangerous we’ve allowed our streets to be designed. Modern traffic engineering focused solely on automobile efficiency and speed creates deadly places for people. We need to completely rethink our approach to street design to take into account safety for all users—especially on our major streets and arterials that provide the most connections throughout the city. Speed, lane width, sidewalks, street trees, meaningful density, and geometric design all play a part in creating a safer environment for everyone.

A motorist drove into the patio of Webb's Market in Phoenix Hill, causing damage to a brick structure. (Courtesy Webb's Market / Facebook)
A motorist drove into the patio of Webb’s Market in Phoenix Hill. (Courtesy Webb’s Market / Facebook)

Many incidents of drivers hitting buildings go unnoticed, without mention in the news. For instance, we were the only outlet to cover the the demise of a 160-year-old Phoenix Hill building after motorists collided on Jefferson Street in 2015. Plenty of others do make headlines, especially when a spectacular partial collapse is involved like on Broadway. We collect the headlines locally under our Carnage analysis section. And there are a lot of them. Take a look below for a 14-month roundup of only media published motorist vs. building crashes in the Louisville area.

  1. February 2016: A motorist hits a house on Cane Run Road in Shively, sending several people to the hospital. The crash site was near Cane Run Elementary School. (WLKY)
  2. February 2016: A drunk driver crashes his car into the front of Za’s Pizza Pub at 1573 Bardstown Road, destroying the front entrance and part of a wall. The driver was later arrested. (Facebook, WDRB, WHAS11C-J)
  3. February 2016: A motorist crashed his car into Captain’s Cellar liquor store, 2915 Brownsboro Road. The front entrance was destroyed, one person was hospitalized, and the business was closed for several months. (WAVE3 plus Update)
  4. February 2016: A motorist drove his car into a house in Shepherdsville. One person was taken to the hospital. (WDRB)
  5. February 2016: A taxi cab driver crashed into the front of the Hampton Place Apartments at 16th and Chestnut streets. The car smashed through a brick wall and window into the living room of an apartment. (WDRBWAVE3)
  6. March 2016: A motorist drove his car into a house at West Pages Lane and Devonshire Drive in Pleasure Ridge Park. “I was just laying there getting ready to get up for work and I just heard the boom from the wreck,” the homeowner told WAVE3. “It sounded like a bomb went off in the house.” (WDRBWAVE3)
  7. March 2016: A motorist hits a corner commercial building at the corner of Oak and Sixth streets. (Facebook comment)
  8. April 2016: A motorist drives his car into a house in Newburg, smashing through a brick wall and window into the living room. Several injuries were reported. (WHAS11)
  9. April 2016: A motorist drives into an Old Louisville corner store at Second and Oak streets. This isn’t the first time this structure has been hit, either. It’s become a common target in the neighborhood. A resident living above the shop said the crash felt like an earthquake. (Facebook)
  10. May 2016: A motorist drove a car into an Old Louisville dry cleaners at Third and Oak streets, taking out a glass facade wall. (WLKY)
  11. May 2016: A FedEx driver came within feet of hitting the Vogue Center on Lexington Road in St. Matthews after confusing the gas and brake pedals. The crash took out a large SUV instead. (WDRBWLKY)
  12. May 2016: A man drove a stolen car into a gas station convenience store in Jeffersonville, hitting two parked cars along the way. The man led police on a chase into Clark County before he was arrested. (WDRB)
  13. June 2016: A motorist drove into Bypass Liquors, 3632 Seventh Street Road. (WAVE3)
  14. July 2016: Four motorists were involved in a dramatic crash that sent their cars into a Jeffersontown home on Summerfield Drive near South Hurstbourne Lane. The incident was road rage related and neighbors pulled the trapped motorists from the house’s basement as gasoline rushed in. (WDRB plus Update)
  15. August 2016: A drunk driver crashed his car into a house full of people on Robinwood Road, injuring one of them. The driver fled the scene but was later arrested at his home. (WDRB)
  16. August 2016: A motorist drove his car into an adult entertainment club on Seventh Street Road near Berry Boulevard in Shively. (WDRBWAVE3)
  17. September 2016: A woman crashed her car into the front of a Cricket store on Dixie Highway. (WLKY)
  18. October 2016: A TARC bus driver veered off the road, hitting a utility pole on Bardstown Road near Taylorsville Road. The crash knocked out power for 1,400 residents in the Highlands Douglass neighborhood. (C-J)
  19. November 2016: A motorist died after hitting a utility pole and then driving into an abandoned church at 12th and Kentucky streets in the California neighborhood. (WDRBWAVE3C-J)
  20. November 2016: A motorist drove a car into a utility pole at Brook and Lee streets in Old Louisville before fleeing the scene. (WDRBWAVE3)
  21. December 2016: A motorist drove his car into a corner commercial building at 18th and Jefferson streets in the Russell neighborhood. Police had been attempting to pull the driver over. A woman was arrested and a man fled the scene. (WAVE3WLKY)
  22. December 2016: A motorist crashed a stolen vehicle into Volleyball Connection on Baxter Avenue in Irish Hill. “It took out the window, three layers of brick,” the business owner told WAVE3. “It’s crazy that something could have so much destruction.” The driver had led police on a chase to the crash site from way out in Jeffersontown. (WLKYWAVE3)
  23. December 2016: A wrong-way motorist drove into a corner commercial building at the corner of East Broadway and Shelby Street in Phoenix Hill causing a partial collapse. The structure has since been repaired. (Broken Sidewalk)
  24. February 2017: A carjacker attempted to steal a car from a daycare at the corner of Fifth Street and Winkler Avenue in the South Louisville neighborhood only to end up driving it into the building. Children were inside at the time but none were hurt. The carjacker fled the scene. (WLKYWDRB)
  25. February 2017: A motorist hit a utility pole on Westport Road near the Watterson Expressway, knocking out power for 2,250 people in the area. (WDRB)
  26. February 2017: A motorist drove a pickup truck into a house at Taylor Boulevard near Bluegrass Avenue on the border of the Beechmont and Hazelwood neighborhoods. The homeowner said the driver attempted to flee, but was arrested by police. The crash site is across the street from Hazelwood Elementary School. (WDRB)
  27. February 2017: A motorist drove his car into a utility pole at Frankfort and Clifton avenues in the Clifton neighborhood. He was found unconscious with his foot on the gas pedal, passed out from using heroin, and was arrested. The Washington Post reported recently that Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) is increasing at alarming rates across the country compared to Driving Under the Influence (DUI), making traffic violence harder to fight. (WDRB)
  28. February 2017: A motorist hit a utility pole near the Louisville International Airport, knocking out power for the entire facility and delaying some incoming flights. (WDRB)
  29. February 2017: A motorist suspected of drinking drove a car into a utility pole at Bardstown Road at the Douglass Loop. The car burst into flames and two people were pulled from the wreckage by a good samaritan and a police officer. (WDRB)
  30. March 2017: A motorist suspected of drinking drove a car into a building and construction site on Greenwood Road near Terry Road in Pleasure Ridge Park. The driver was arrested.(WAVE3WHAS11WDRB)
  31. March 2017: A motorist crossing the Second Street Bridge veered off course and slammed his car into the span’s steel structure. Workers in the area said the driver had been speeding and the car’s battery was ejected due to the force of the crash. (Facebook)
  32. March 2017: A motorist drove a car into a Beverage Warehouse liquor store on Bardstown Road south of the Watterson Expressway. (C-J)
  33. April 2017: A motorist drove a minivan into Webb’s Market on the corner of Muhammad Ali Boulevard and Wenzel Street, smashing a brick wall and patio next to the corner store. (Facebook)

Crime

Another unfortunate trend involving motorists driving into buildings is the intentional act—using a car as a battering ram for a robbery. In less than 24 hours last July, motorists rammed two gun shops—one in Jeffersontown and another in Fern Valley—stealing guns and sparking a SWAT incident in one case (WLKYWDRBWDRB). In December, a motorist intentionally drove a vehicle through a shoe store at Cane Run Road near Crums Lane in Shively. Police said the suspect stole “lots of Air Jordans” (WDRB). And this past March, a Wisconsin woman was arrested after intentionally driving a vehicle into a store at New Cut Road near Palatka Road (WDRB).

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Branden Klayko

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

4 COMMENTS

  1. There’s a joke here about Billy Joel teaching Drivers Ed.

    I remember, years ago, there was an incident at the Wallace Center where someone drove their car into one of the facings there. It is still wild to me that this happens.

  2. I remember when I was a kid someone drove through the wall of Chism’s hardware store in St. Matthews. I think that was the end of Chism’s.

  3. First and Oak: pulled a semi out of this one three times.
    Moral ? Trucks shouldn’t be allowed in historic districts (why we built Ninth St), and one way streets makes it worse.
    Second and Oak: also second or third time.

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