The Dreaded Bumper Blocker
When you think about it, what’s more benign than a parking lot? A neutral zone where idled cars pass the time like languid dogs sleeping in the sun. Well, think again.
Parking lots can be hazardous to your health. I’m not talking about fender-benders or road rages when careless drivers clash while parking their vehicles. I’m referring to the six-inch-high, six-foot-long rectangular cement slabs that separate parking spaces. If you trip on one, parking between the lines is the least of your concerns.
I know. Last summer, my face smashed into the concrete pavement of a parking lot when I tumbled over one of those nasty slabs. As I stepped forward after exiting the car, I was so preoccupied with donning my pandemic mask I failed to detect the chunk of cement at my feet.
Bam! Down I went, hitting the ground suddenly and slamming my face hard. It was such a violent impact, for a moment I didn’t know what happened. What force dashed me to the pavement so ferociously? Did I step on a land mine?
Dazed and shaken, I arose slowly and checked my reflection in the mirror, startled to see a deep gash on my forehead, blood streaming down my face, and a huge swollen welt on my left cheek — the color and size of a ripe tomato. My knee was banged up, too.
Thank goodness for first aid kits. Hastily, I wiped away the blood and bandaged myself up, my mask doing a pitiful job of covering the big red bruise. Then resembling a shellshocked soldier at Gettysburg, I hobbled away, grateful I didn’t split my head open or break any bones.
In the 1960’s, comedian Dick Van Dyke did a pratfall over a foot stool during the opening credits of his weekly TV show. That was hilarious. Then in 1975, when President Gerald Ford took a spill while descending the steps from Air Force One, the whole country was amused.
But when you do an involuntary somersault on solid concrete, it’s not so funny. Hmmm…should I have sued someone over my face-first collision? Probably not. My own clumsiness was the proximate cause. I didn’t watch where I was going.
Still, out of curiosity, I researched the topic and learned a thing or two.
For instance, did you ever wonder what to call those rectangular parking lot slabs? For lowly hunks of cement, they have a prolific number of descriptors. Wheel stops, curb stops, tire stops, parking stops, parking curbs, concrete curbs, bumper blocks, wheel blocks, parking blocks, parking bumpers, or concrete parking barriers. Take your pick.
I learned if I wanted to file a lawsuit, I would have to prove negligence by the property owners, demonstrating they violated local building codes or zoning laws by failing to correctly install or maintain the concrete parking barrier.
I learned I’m not alone in stumbling over a parking curb. Apparently, it’s quite common and folks do it every day. Since 1971, the National Safety Council and National Parking Association have designated wheel stops as pedestrian tripping hazards. Considering the staggering number of parking lots with wheel stops in the United States, no surprise there.
I don’t know the exact statistics, but many falls do occur outside on sidewalks or in parking lots, often because of ice and snow. Bear that in mind when Old Man Winter arrives.
Falling down is also a source of countless injuries, whether it’s at home, at work, on sidewalks, or in parking lots. Each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), three million Americans age 65 or older are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries, and more than 800,000 patients are hospitalized due to slips, trips, or falls. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that falling down is the second leading cause of “unintentional injury deaths” among people of all ages worldwide, resulting in about 684,000 fatalities annually.
Maybe we shouldn’t laugh next time someone slips on a banana peel.
Of course, in our litigation-obsessed society, stringent safety standards exist for just about everything to reduce the risks of accidents, and that includes parking lots and parking bumpers. Even cement slabs must follow rules and regulations, and if parking lot owners don’t adhere to them, they could be liable when people get hurt on their turf.
But I won’t be seeing anyone in court. I suffered no permanent damage when I toppled over, a scar on my forehead the sole remnant of my mishap. My knee healed and my cheek recovered. The angry red tomato gradually ebbed — eventually fading to blue, then brown, then yellow –then miraculously disappeared.
Though now when I walk across parking lots, I’m on high alert. Never again will I regard them as harmless places, but potential minefields. My motto is, “Beware of bumper blocks!” How’s that for a bumper sticker?