One local woman is building on research we started at News 4 and chronicling Western New York’s bizarre series of cars crashing into buildings.
Librarian and historian Cynthia Van Ness admits she’s a little obsessed with her research.
“Everybody noticed when we had all these rashes of drivers crashing into buildings. And your station did this great map of the first 20, 30 of them. And I just so loved that map, I would send it around when I was talking about the phenomenon” she said.
After the crash at Schwabl’s restaurant in West Seneca last December, Van Ness started compiling her own map. She calls it, “Buffalo: World Capital of Drivers Crashing Into Buildings.”
Van Ness said, “So I put the Schwabl’s pinpoint on, and then there were others. I thought, ‘There’s got to be more out there. And the more I looked, the more I found. And then I got really obsessive, and then I found even more stories, and I got up to 150 crashes since 2006.”
She’s posted that map publicly on Google’s “My Places.” With each pinpoint there’s a date, and a link to a news story. There seem to be some common factors, contributing to this trend.
“Alcohol. Obviously people do drive and drink, drink and drive. Some elderly drivers had this problem,” she said. “Distracted drivers. People also having medical events of some kind.”
And while there were only three car-into-building crashes in 2006, last year there were 43.
Van Ness said, “It does seem to be more common. Certainly, now that everybody’s addicted to their cell phones, I expect to see more and more of this going on.”
She is hoping her project will get more people to put down the phones and other distractions, and re-focus on driving.
“Unless alcohol was involved, the media characterizes these stories as cars hitting buildings. Cars don’t hit buildings, drivers do. And I really want to put the driver back in the car,” Van Ness said. “I figure, this has got to be useful for somebody. I don’t know who for, but it’s gonna be useful for somebody.”
She plans to keep adding to the map. She says she walks and bikes a lot, and is thinking of creating a second map of car-pedestrian collisions.