Close to midnight on February 23, 2016, a 79 year-old man crashed his Dodge drove his truck through the front entrance of the Kingsport Walmart. It wasn’t intentional; the driver told the local police that he had meant to hit the brake after he pulled out of his parking spot, but hit the gas instead. He went right through the doors and hit a family of four who were exiting the store. According to News Channel 11, “All members of the family were transported to Holston Valley Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries” – a small silver lining in what could have been a tragic story.

This type of accident, where a car goes through a building, is called a car incursion accident, and pedal confusion is the leading cause of these types of crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s most recent report on the subject examined thousands of cases of pedal application errors, and they found some interesting correlations:

  • Female drivers accounted for almost 2/3 of these types of cases
  • Drivers aged 76 or older were more likely to be reported by media outlets, but were no more likely to make a pedal application error than any other group
  • Driver inattention and/or distraction was cited as the source for around 44% of all crashes studied
  • Poor executive function was cited as the overall factor present in such cases

To be fair, the study did not include parking lot crashes, like what occurred in this case, but it did make it a point to discuss the different kinds of pedal errors. (You can read about them in the full report.)

How common are pedal errors?

As it turns out, they’re pretty common – even when they don’t result in an accident or crash. The NHTSA report says that:

“Serious pedal errors (defined in their study as pressing the wrong pedal or both pedals simultaneously) occurred at a rate of 1 per 4.8 hours of data collection, or 1 per 468 foot movements. They observed a total of 7,008 foot movements resulting in 297 errors during the 72 hours in which data were collected. Of the 297 errors, 15 were serious (i.e., the subject mistook the accelerator for brake, the brake for the accelerator, or pressed both pedals).”

How often do people crash into buildings?

That also happens a lot more often than you might think. The Storefront Safety Council reports that between 2013 and January 2015, more than 5,000 car incursion cases throughout the country. (They attribute pedal error to 34% of those cases.) By their estimates, a car incursion cases occurs, on average, 60 times a day, injures about 4,000 people each year, and leads to the deaths of around 500 each year.

All of us are very happy to hear that no one’s life is in danger, and we hope that it stays that way. We wish for a speedy recovery for the entire family.

If you have questions about car incursions in Tennessee, or if you have been hurt in an auto accident, we invite you to visit the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm. Our experienced auto accident attorneys in Nashville, Gallatin and Knoxville will be happy to answer your questions. Contact us to schedule your free consultation today.