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LowcountryBizSC: Outdoor dining offers allure, but is danger on the menu?

By Vernon Glenn

It’s so appealing to dine al fresco, so little wonder outdoor dining venues are plentiful these days. Naturally, they’re often on a corner, a sidewalk or otherwise in close proximity to moving objects, like cars, trucks and bicycles, intent on their own journey.  While the chance of an accident occurring seems small, statistics and recent accidents indicate otherwise.

In a recent month in neighboring North Carolina, eight accidents involving outdoor diners and automobiles were recorded on camera.  It’s particularly dangerous when angled or straight-in parking spaces are located alongside outdoor dining areas.  Cars can easily jump the curb and injure someone.

Such was the case when an elderly woman was injured while dining at a popular chain restaurant in a busy shopping center.  Only after the car jumped the curb and plowed into her did anyone notice the curb was just five feet from her table.  It’s a hidden danger many aren’t aware of, and it’s one that could be avoided.

Some establishments have begun to think through the hazard and offer solutions, but most patrons continue to dine and drink casually, unaware of any potential dangers.  Low-profile concrete barriers known as bollards are one way to protect diners from nearby traffic.  Properly built, just one of them can withstand and stop a 4,000 pound vehicle going up to 30 miles per hour.  Planted strategically, even trees can put up some line of defense.  An attractive low wall may also prevent a tragedy.  In the case of the injured diner, it was later shown that 12 bollards, at a cost of roughly $15,000 to this large national chain, could have protected the entire dining area from vehicle intrusion and prevented severe injury.

Bollards sprung up all over our nation’s capitol after 9/11, and businesses have begun to install them too. You’ll notice them at Walmart, Target, or the ATM. Those same devices can be used to protect people, but the public may have to get into action to ask the establishments to offer them a safer dining adventure.

Diners are attracted by the natural, outdoor atmosphere, but it pays to look around before you place your order. If you don’t see large trees, bollards, or a retaining wall protecting you from nearby traffic,   you may want to shift to a place where caution is also being served.

Vernon Glenn is of Counsel to Clore Law Group of Charleston. S.C., and Allman Spry Leggett & Crumpler of Winston Salem, N.C. You may reach him at evfg@clorelaw.com.

 

 

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