Highway officials tell pedestrians to wear bright colors so motorists will see you and won’t hit you. So why do drivers still crash into brightly-colored Dunkin’ Donuts stores?

A driver crashed into a Dunkin’ Donuts in Golden’s Bridge, New York in 2010. Photo by Golden’s Bridge Fire Department.

An internet search found eight cases just this year of drivers smashing into pink and orange doughnut shops. One store in Brooklyn was hit twice, in June of last year and again in January.

One incident involved a motorist who took ill while driving and died in the collision.  Otherwise, only a few people were hurt.  But the outcome could easily have been worse if someone had been standing in the wrong place. 

The excuses drivers make when they strike pedestrians aren’t available when they hit Dunkin’ Donuts.  “I didn’t see it” would lack credibility.  “It jumped out in front of me” even more so.  It should be easy to assign fault when car and store collide.

Yet police chose not to cite the drivers who caused four of these crashes.  (One driver died, the driver of a stolen truck is still being sought, and two police departments did not return my calls.)  Law enforcement officers seem to think that motorists are under no legal obligation to control their cars.  As a Dover, New Hampshire, police lieutenant explained, a woman who hit the gas pedal instead of the brake and smashed into a doughnut store committed no violation because she was sober and not texting.

Motorists have nothing special against Dunkin’.  A consultant on retail store safety estimates that Starbucks might get hit as much as once a week.  His advice to merchants is to put bollards out front.

Cars colliding with buildings should not be a normal part of life.  They are a signal that our highway system is seriously out of whack.

Roads will never be safe unless drivers are held accountable for their ton of deadly steel.  One way to start is with fewer lectures about how pedestrians should dress.  If bright colors don’t protect Dunkin’ Donuts, they won’t save those on foot.