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Fast-Food Drive-Thrus and Injury Accidents

The fast-food drive-thru is a welcome convenience for many Nevadans. On snowy days in the northern Nevada cities of Reno, Sparks, Elko, and Carson City, it provides drivers with an opportunity to grab a quick bite to eat without leaving the comfort of their own car. (In Las Vegas, staying in the car means avoiding that short but painful break in air conditioning from parking lot to lobby). For busy parents, it is a way of feeding hungry kids without unbuckling and re-buckling multiple car seats. But could this convenience come at the cost of fatal accident injuries?

Las Vegas Man Killed at In-N-Out

Drive-thru traffic moves so slowly that many don’t consider it a risky place to drive. In this setting cars spend most of their time waiting in the line before slowly edging forward to the next window. One doesn’t often hear about fatal accident injuries at in the drive-thru line, or even at fast-food restaurants generally. However, given a large enough sample size, there are bound to be outliers.

This week, a Las Vegas man fell victim to an unlikely but fatal accident injury at an In-N-Out Burger restaurant in St. George, Utah. Diners were happily enjoying their Double Doubles, French fries, and milkshakes when a vehicle veered off the sidewalk and plowed through the wall of the restaurant. The car entered the dining room and hit multiple diners. Four people were taken by ambulance to a local hospital, and several more transported themselves for medical treatment. One of the four who was taken by ambulance later died from his injuries. The victim was identified as Antonio Mendoza of Las Vegas, Nevada. The name of the driver has not yet been released and the cause of the accident is still under investigation. [1]

Low-Speed Accidents

The typical fast-food drive-thru may not seem like an especially hazardous place because cars are moving so slowly through it. Even if you were to hit someone or something, it seems unlikely that it would result in significant injury or property damage. However, the low-risk nature of a drive-thru setting can create a culture of careless driving, increasing risks to drivers and pedestrians of fatal accident injuries.

Because drivers are moving at such slow speeds, many may feel that they do not need to be as careful as they otherwise might be. While most drivers understand that it is unsafe to check their cell phones while driving at high speed, they may be more likely to make an exception at extremely low speed while making the steady traverse of a drive-thru line. However, texting while driving is just as illegal and still as dangerous even when moving at an extremely low speed.

Distracted Driving

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, a federal agency), 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in the United States each day as a result of accidents caused by distracted driving. Distracted driving is defined as driving while also doing any other activity that could take your attention away from the road. These activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Texting a friend
  • Making a phone call
  • Changing the radio station
  • Adjusting the thermostat
  • Talking to other passengers in the vehicle
  • Eating a meal
  • Using other phone applications, such as maps or music [2]

Out of these many means of distraction, texting while driving is considered one of the most dangerous. Texting can take a driver’s attention off the road for about five seconds at a time. [3] This is plenty of time for a car to veer out of its lane or for a pedestrian to walk in front of a vehicle, potentially causing a fatal accident injury. Regardless of these facts, passing distracted driving legislation in Nevada has proved onerous.

Driving Safely at Low Speed

A drive-thru line is similar to what many drivers experience in stop-and-go traffic. Cars are packed in close together. They stop and start frequently. Distractions are plenty, as most drivers are thinking about their fast-food order or their next errand rather than safe driving habits.

In order to stay safe in stop-and-go situations such as drive-thru lines, follow a few simple steps. First, make sure your car is in good working condition. Brakes should be inspected frequently by a licensed mechanic, and you want to make sure both brake lights are working. You can check that your brake lights are working by asking a friend to stand behind the car while you tap the brake pedal. Once you are back on the road, be aware of cars and pedestrians around you. Keep your eyes on the road and look around you frequently. Pay attention to the brake lights of other cars around you, as they will help you know when to start slowing down. Leave plenty of stopping room between your car and the vehicle in front of you. This will give you plenty of time to stop if the car in front of you brakes suddenly. Do not accelerate quickly, as this can also make it difficult to stop in time. Avoid distractions, even when travelling at low speed. Do not check your text messages or change your music while the car is running, even if you are stopped for several seconds. No matter what happens on the road or in the drive-thru line, stay calm and collected. Take deep breaths if you feel frustration or rage, and do not exit your vehicle to confront another driver. [4]



[3] Ibid


Image Credit:  Stilfehler via Wikipedia Commons


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