In this article, the premises safety experts at Robson Forensic discuss relevant standards and what can be done with wheelstops (parking blocks) to make parking lots safer for pedestrians.
Wheelstops and Pedestrian Safety
Robson Forensic has investigated nearly one hundred pedestrian fall incidents involving wheelstops. Wheelstops, also known as curb stops or parking blocks, are the small barriers used at the end of parking spaces to assist attentive drivers with parking their vehicles; wheelstops are also consistently identified as pedestrian tripping hazards.
Wheelstops and Maintenance
Wheelstops are manufactured of several different materials including concrete, metal, wood, plastics and recycled rubber. Typical installation methods include epoxy, mechanical pinning and gravity-weighted.
None of these installation methods is maintenance free or foolproof. Wheelstops epoxied to the parking lot may be knocked loose, taking the parking surface with it. If the wheelstop is bolted or otherwise mechanically anchored even small, but repeated, impacts can damage paving around the anchor. This type of damage creates paths for water penetration which can then create additional tripping hazards. Snow plowing operations can be another source of damage to wheelstops by pushing them out of alignment. Existing wheelstops should be routinely inspected - monthly and after snow events - for signs of corrosion, cracking, misalignment and other deterioration.
Relevant Standards Relevant safety standards and other professional publications address the topic of wheelstops. Some contain recommendations for the proper use of wheelstops, while others discuss ways to eliminate wheelstops by design. Standards citing that wheelstops should be avoided state that they should not be placed in pedestrian walkways or foreseeable pedestrian paths. If wheelstops are present, there are things that should be done to reduce the likelihood of trips, including painting them so they contrast against their surroundings and all other painted markings on the parking surface. There are additional standards for the dimensions and placement of the wheelstops within the stall. The goal is that the wheelstop is completely covered by the car when the stall is occupied, eliminating hard to see tripping conditions on either side of the vehicle. Illumination is also recommended at wheelstop locations to improve visibility.
Use of Wheelstops in Parking Lots
Wheelstops are frequently used in parking lots to prevent vehicle encroachment onto sidewalks, but neither wheelstops nor standard 6” curbs are effective vehicle barriers. For the prevention of vehicle encroachment, standards state that bollards at least 3’-6” high may be centered at the heads of parking stalls in lieu of wheelstops.
If you have wheelstops in a parking lot:
- Limit wheelstop length to 6’ and height to 6.5”
- Ensure an adequate walkway of at least 3’ between wheelstops
- Ensure that wheelstops contrast with surrounding pavement
- Ensure that wheelstops are adequately illuminated
- Place wheelstops in a walkway or a foreseeable pedestrian path
- Allow wheelstops to remain in place if they are broken or deteriorated
- Assume that wheelstops will prevent vehicle incursions onto sidewalks
This article was developed by the Premises Safety experts at Robson Forensic. This group includes nearly twenty experts who investigate premises liability cases across the country, including slip, trip, and fall incidents, and various other building performance issues.
Contact us for help determining which of our experts is most appropriate to assist with your investigation.