No one likes to think about getting into a car accident, but let’s face it — some car accidents are better than others. Spinning out on wet grass or a wet road might mess your tires up, but if you manage to avoid the rest of the cars on the road, chances are good you’re driving home instead of calling a tow truck. Hitting another car is hit or miss, depending on the speed you’re moving.
But hitting a bollard? That’s always a miss. So what’s a bollard — and why can you always expect to lose when you hit one?
First, What’s a Bollard?
Even if you’re not familiar with the name, you’ve probably seen bollards while driving your car. “Bollard” is a broad term for any short post embedded into a street or sidewalk to act as a barrier. They may be crash-resistant or they may just be there for show, but either way, they’re designed to keep you out if you’re not supposed to be somewhere.
You might see them rising out of the concrete to protect driveways or discourage speeders. They can also be used to protect volatile or valuable item storage — those posts you see in the sidewalk at the gas station separating you from the cage of propane tanks are also bollards.
Funny anecdote: My first car accident was a car-vs.-bollard situation in front of a gas station. I had my learner’s permit and the legally-licensed driver in the passenger seat started yelling that I was pulling into the parking space too fast. I panicked, hit the accelerator instead of the brake and the rest is history. I destroyed the driver’s side headlight and shifted the whole front quarter panel back so the driver’s side door could not be opened — and that was at less than 10 miles per hour.
Bollard: One. Car: Zero.
The Cars Always Lose
Rising bollards are becoming more popular as an automatic way to protect driveways and parking lots. They are usually accompanied by a pair of lights that let the driver know when the bollard has completely retracted and it’s safe to drive over.
As one driver has inadvertently demonstrated for us, it’s important to always trust the lights. The driver of a cargo van got a little too eager to proceed — and it probably cost him his oil pan. This is just one example of bollard fails. Most of them are designed to let through one car at a time, so when someone tries to rush in to get through before the bollard rises again, it’s the perfect recipe for amusement.
It just goes to show that if you trust the lights, you won’t look like a fool by running into a bollard.
These reinforced posts are designed to control traffic, protect important locations and keep silly new drivers from panicking and crashing into a cage full of propane tanks. We can laugh at the people who run afoul of them, but they serve a very important purpose.