It's the accident cause du jour.

A person can't pick up a newspaper, watch or listen to a newscast, peruse the web or chat with others about regional happenings of late without seeing or hearing about some driver who rammed into a building. Residential homes, stores, restaurants and office buildings are all fair game. Fargo and Grand Forks have seen a dramatic increase in the number of these, and Crookston had one this past weekend.

    What was once a rare occurrence – you'd hear about such an incident every couple of years or so – has escalated to one per month and often more. What's going on here? A lot.

    First off, building-ramming accidents grab more attention than, say, a driver plowing into a parked car or two vehicles colliding at an intersection. Provided there are no major injuries in either, if the media have two motor vehicle accidents to report on the same page/newscast and one involves a vehicle hitting a house or driving through a storefront, guess which gets top billing? People just notice these more.  

    Looking at what's behind these accidents nationwide, the driver was nearly always impaired in some way and speeding. Drunk driving is a common factor, as is texting while driving. Sudden medical conditions, vehicle malfunction, elderly drivers and swerving to avoid another vehicle, person or object in the road have also been to blame in some cases. In other words, the vast majority of vehicle-building crashes, like any vehicle collision, are preventable. Drunk driving has gotten enough of a bad rap over the years so that anyone getting behind the wheel after imbibing even a couple of alcoholic beverages in a short time should know that he/she will be putting lives in danger as soon as that vehicle hits the street.

    While drunk driving has been a big problem for years, the whole distracted driving thing has gotten out of hand. Like drunk driving, texting while driving is illegal in most states, but since when has that stopped people from doing something? So far, few tickets have been written out for these offenses, mainly because it's difficult to catch offenders in the act. It would seem that everyone, even a preschooler, would consider it a no-brainer to not text while driving, but if that were true, we wouldn't have all these accidents, fatal and otherwise, attributed to this.

    Combined with other impairments/distractions while driving, like falling asleep at the wheel, talking on a cell phone, tending to beauty matters – anything that prevents a driver from giving his/her full attention to what's happening on the road – these are making the streets increasingly more dangerous to be out on as passengers and pedestrians. People sitting at home watching TV, in a store buying one, working in their office, and enjoying a meal at a restaurant are at more risk for harm as well. Taking the injury factor out of the equation, what homeowner wouldn't be devastated to come home to find a car square in the middle of his/her living room?

    About all we can do to try and stop this nasty trend is keep pushing the education bit on the dangers of distracted driving and beef up the law enforcement end to catch potential perpetrators before they have a chance to leave destruction in their wake. Unfortunately, many of these are not caught until after the fact.