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Wheelstops - Parking Lots Hidden Danger



Parking Lots Hidden Danger

by Vesta Copestakes

Bet you thought you were the only person who found those little concrete bumpers in parking lots more than annoying. Not so – as I discovered recently after a dear friend face-planted after tripping over one.  What is intended to keep vehicles from running into buildings, or each other, turns out to be far more dangerous to pedestrians than cars and buildings.

Just recently a friend was leaving the Black Bear Restaurant in Sonoma, and as she stepped off the sidewalk, she immediately tripped over one of those concrete wheel stops. By the time the ambulance arrived she was lying in a pool of blood with a massive concussion, bleeding from her head, nose and mouth, side of her hand ripped open down to the bone and more damage that wouldn’t be discovered until later.

As she arrived at Sonoma Valley Hospital, one of the nurses on the Day Surgery Floor saw the extensive cuts and bruises on her face and said, “Dare I ask?”

My friend replied, “Yes. I tripped over a wheel stop in the Marketplace parking lot.”

The nurse’s response was, “Oh my goodness, we do so many wrist surgeries here for people who trip over those things. You guys keep us busy!”

What is most interesting about these concrete wheel stops is that they seem to be used infrequently and fairly randomly. Some parking lots use them everywhere – some not at all – and some only at what appears to be a random selection of locations. What gives? Are they necessary or not?

The parking space right next to the one my friend tripped over doesn’t have one.

In the entire shopping center, there are only about a dozen of them. If they are random, people aren’t expecting them and therefore more likely to trip over one.

So now that the initial bruising and cuts have healed, my friend has been in physical therapy for a crack in her hip bone, and is scheduled for surgery to fix a torn rotator cuff, both the result of this fall. Her nose was cracked, her teeth jarred loose and the story keeps getting more complex.

She’s on fixed income, only has Medi-Care which doesn’t cover everything, and is having a very hard time figuring out how she is going to pay for all these medical expenses. When she asked the shopping center to consider helping her, they refused. An attorney advised her that a lawsuit is possible, but they would need to find more people who have had similar experience with tripping over wheel stops and sustaining injuries.

Even the physical therapist she is working with said their department has been working with another woman who tripped over a wheel stop and badly damaged her elbow.

Perhaps if enough people realize it’s not just them – it happens all the time – we could get some consistency about use of wheel stops or eliminate them altogether. For my friend, I’d like to hear from others who have tripped over them and hurt themselves to see if she can at least get some aid with her medical expenses.  Is that too much to ask for?

I would love to hear from people, especially if you or someone you know has suffered by tripping over these concrete wheel stops. Please contact me via email at or drop me a line…Vesta, c/o Sonoma County Gazette, 6490 Front St. #300, Forestville, CA 95436. I need your written stories. Thank you. Maybe we can make a change that many will benefit from or at least get my friend a little financial assistance.


February 5, 2012

Hi, Vesta!

On Dec., 4, 2006, I tripped over a "wheel stop" in the parking lot of a school on the way into work as na substitute teacher at 7;45AM, fractured my patella (kneecap) and injured my nose (possible refracture).   Because the accident happened on school property, worker's comp did take care of it, and I had Kaiser insurance as well.  

But the next few weeks were very stressful.  Kaiser tried to send me straight home from the emergency care!  Because there was no one at home to care for me, I had to insist in order to be readmitted.   It happened that Santa Rosa Kaiser Hospital was full of flu patients,  so I was sent to the horrendous Kaiser Oakland (will spare you the details) and then to 2.5 weeks in a rehab hospital in the town of Sonoma, far from my home in Sebastopol. 

Although most of the care was $$ covered, I incurred so many other expenses, pet care, etc.  and could not feed myself or get around my home or garden for about three months.  Ate below standard "Meals on Wheels" food for two months.  For six months I could not drive because the right knee was the fractured one.  I was so scared of falling again for about eight months.  For two months in the summer I had to endure the daily two-hour discomfort  of wearing a "dynasplint" which was intended to give better flexion to the knee but never did any good.

I lost wages for the remainder of the school year, that is six months, so worker's comp gave me, I think, 2/3 the wages I was missing. 

Best outcome?

1) Worker's comp paid for six months of aquatherapy at the YMCA where I got into better shape than in earlier decades. I've retained membership there, lost 18 pounds and enjoy the wonderfully supportive environment, inspiration of variety of people and their health challenges, as well as the diversity of languages and countries of origin.

2) Secondly, I suppose that my accident generated several thousand $$ of GNP in the healthcare and related fields.  Good for the economy?

 Are "wheel stops" unnecessary in many cases?

You betcha!   In that school parking lot, the curb itself stops all the diagonally-parked vehicles anyway.  Any errant vehicle would simply end up on a grassy soccerfield, and would not hit a building or another car.   Teachers make up most of pedestrian traffic, going to and from their cars.

 Should "wheel stops" be painted?

Yes, with stripes, yellow-white-yellow-white....

Thanks for working on this hazard.


February 5, 2012

Dear Vesta,

I read with interest your article on "Parking Lots Hidden Dangers."  Two summers ago when Steve's dad had a stroke we all flew down to southern California to assist both Mom and Dad.  My mother in law was in a state of shock and coping marginally.  She had not been able to go to her church for Sunday service since my father in law had his stroke.  I took her to the service thinking that it would lift her spirits.  After the service we were walking across the parking lot.  She was in front of me. Neither of us saw the concrete bumper.  She tripped over it and fell.  She managed to put an arm out to brace herself but she still hit one side of her face on the pavement.  Compared to your friend she was lucky.  By great good fortune there were no broken bones because she fell on her right side and it's her left hip that is osteoporotic.  She did have a mild concussion and two very noticeable black eyes.  We rode to the hospital emergency room in the ambulance and spent the afternoon there.  The church group insisted that I sign liability forms before leaving for the hospital.  I knew my mother in law would never consider suing them.  However, it is interesting to note that Kaiser had no such compunction and happily sued to get back all medical expenses.  Needless to say I hate those bumpers.  My mother in law's fall has made me a lot more cautious in parking lots.  Thanks for bringing this issue to the attention of the public.  Maybe if there was some way to sue the planning departments that approve them they would disappear altogether.


China Dusk 

My grandmother recently tripped on one of those in a Walgreens parking lot and no one stopped to help her up. Many able bodied men just walked on by. Finally another elderly woman stopped and helped her up. Those things do more damage than good. 


Hi Vesta ~

I saw your recent article about the parking spot bumps and how people are hurting themselves when they trip over them, etc. Well, it was funny that you should have an article about it and mention the stories you did. On Christmas we were taking my grandmother out of a restaurant when she fell over one of those bumps (she does have to use a walker). By the time she got to the hospital and had x-rays done, they found she had broken her leg in three places. I really think it’s because she fell over the bump instead of landing straight down on the ground (maybe she would’ve sprained something or broken her leg in one place instead of three). Anyway, I’m not sure if you can use this story, but my grandmother is still on a long road to recovery… oh, and she’s 92.

 Stacy Rupert


I read your recent article in the Sonoma County Gazette “Parking Lot’s Hidden Danger” with interest, and thought you would like to know the County of Sonoma Permit and Resource Management Department recognized the tripping problem with wheel stops years ago, and began prohibiting them in the unincorporated area for new and rebuilt parking lots except where necessary to protect fixed infrastructure (for example to prevent a vehicle from hitting a building wall or rolling into a drainage ditch), or to allow for handicapped access, or where pedestrians are not likely to cross. 

The preferred alternative to wheel stops is for continuous curbing (by widening landscape strips and sidewalks) since it is less likely to be tripped on by pedestrians.  Unfortunately, as you noted in your article there are many remaining wheel stops in poorly designed locations, which will take decades to get removed as properties slowly come in for remodeling/upgrade permits.

Ken Ellison
Supervising Planner
County of Sonoma

I recently tripped on one of those things and had a bad break in my leg.  In hospital 3 days and in skilled nursing facility 2 weeks. Rehab continues at home.  This is my second accident on one of those things. Damaged a shoulder last time. They ought to be outlawed. Has anyone started to work on getting that done?  Even my surgeon said he can't count the number of people he has operated on after a fall over  one of these things. What can we do about it?

Pat Roulx


We live in Pennsylvania.  My wife tripped over one of the car stops in Ryan's Restaurant parking lot  and broke her upper left arm and knee in four places and had to have three screws and wire placed in her knee during surgery.
Hezekiah and Jerri Phillips

The stories keep coming in - and they all have to do with major injuries - thank you - we're trying to get these things outlawed! Were you able to get any compensation for medical expenses? That might help us build an econimic case not just an injuries reason to get them outlawed. THANK YOU ~ Vesta

Not yet and here is the rest of the story since you asked.  My wife was rushed to emergency where she also complained about her knee several times.  They ignored her request and said she just hit it too hard.  They xrayed her broken arm but sent us home and set us up with an orthopedic doctor.  Next day we saw him and she again complained about her knee several times and he also ignored it because they didn't xray it in the emergency room.  Once week later her foot was black and blue and swollen badly.  We had an appointment and they finally took an xray of her knee and found it broken.  The very next day she had 3 screws and wire placed in her knee.  To date we have not been successful in any area of financial assistance with any of it.  Three attorneys have told us the restarurant is not negligent and the doctor's delayed diagnosis did not cause further damage therefore no malpractice according to them.  Some attorney's don't do anything unless they see themselves getting hundreds of thousands.

Best regards,
Hezekiah D. Phillips

Hi Vesta, 

Joan on ground at wheelstopPlease see attached photo. That's me on the gravel with broken wrist on ice waiting for ambulance on April 7, 2012. My husband and I were on one motorcycle and our friends were on another. We had parked in the paved m.c. area of the p.lot. I was walking toward the Chophouse restaurant at Lake Burton, GA and was totally blindsided. I was wearing sunglasses and am lucky my accident was not worse than a broken right (dominant hand) wrist, cuts and bruises on my face near rt. eye, bruised rt. knee, & sore rt. ribs & elbow. Could not get back on bike & ride to hospital, hence the ambulance. Was supposed to fly to Vegas that week for a much anticipated plein air art event. Even with trip insurance, airline refund of over $800 is not forthcoming (yet anyway). We had an attorney look & we don't have a case because the tire stop was not defective.

I was so sorry to hear about your friend and it seems that most people I talk to have a horror story involving a tire stop for either themselves, a friend, or a loved one.

You'd think that insurance companies would get wise and help us outlaw and remove all of these. Has any state done that? If so, I'd sure like to know how that happened. The answer is not in painting them, it is in removing them completely with no one "grandfathered" in. Luckily, I am insured w/health insurance via my employer. I do not look forward to being on Medicare, although it is better than nothing, I guess.

Again, I am so sorry to hear about your friend. It is hard to get help and insurance satisfaction when you are disabled and it is so very, very, depressing & a slow road. You are a good friend to her, Vesta. Maybe AARP can make some suggestions? I hope she had supplemental insurance.

Thank you for raising awareness about this very real, very tangible threat to public health.


Dear Vesta

Picked up your very interesting Gazette several months ago on a visit to Sonoma County and was just was reading it now.

Your piece on those cement stops brought to mind a civil suit brought by a man who tripped on one of them rushing to get into the store before it closed in early evening hour with reduced light.

I was on the jury of the day long case against the predecessor to Target at the corner of Riverside and Broadway in Sacramento. As I recall, we found negligence on both sides but the store did pay a settlement and agreed to remove the wheel stops next to the walkway beside the store and from their other stores as well.  In this case they were just used to define the walking space as no cars were parked there.

Since that time they have removed them and in fact the new Target stores demarcate their walkways with large easy to see red balls.

Don't know if you have completed your investigation on this but would be happy to talk to you further if you need more information. Glad you are working to get rid of these or at least require they be placed where they are not a hazzard.

Thanks for your good work.

Anne Geraghty


Dear Vesta,
    I also tripped over a parking stop going to my static's class at Eckerd College, located in St. Petersburg Florida. I broke my tibia, fibular, and calcaneus, which basically means I severed my ankle. I had surgery to repair my ankle and later had to have the hardware removed surgically due to a nickel allergy which is blended into stainless.  Then I  had to have my knee replaced on the opposite leg due to the gate being off causing additional wear. I have health insurance but by time I paid all the co pays and amount over the cap I have paid out of pocket an additional $10,000 at least. My mother in law broke her hip the same way. Those things are a minis and I applaud your quest to have them removed from parking lots. Let me know if I can be of any help.
Jana Gross
Tampa Bay, Florida

I have 2 broken wrists from an accident 3 weeks ago.  Typing with 1 finger is hard.  I would be happy to verbally give you my story.  I don't want this to happen to anyone!  I am a 42 year old mother of 4 boys.  My husband is in the US Army.  

Kathryn Tripp


Vesta, I am a 76 year old man who recently, October 23, 2014, tripped over a wheel stop in the parking lot of L'auberge casino in Lake Charles, LA.  I was parked in a handicapped parking space.  At around 8:30 P.M. as I turned to go between my vehicle and another vehicle I tripped over a wheel stop.  I fell violently on the concrete and broke the proximal end my right humerus bone, that is my right arm at the shoulder joint.  I am fortunate more damage was not done.  This accident occurred at night and the wheel stop is not painted.

Query:  I note your article was written in 2012.  Since the date of this article have you gotten more stories of people falling as a result of tripping over wheel stops?  If you know of any law suits relating to wheel stops, I would appreciate knowing of these law suits.  

Basically, I would like to know any information you have regarding the danger of wheel stops.  I would like to file a law suit to be compensated for the health costs and pain and suffering I am going through and will appreciate any assistance you can provide.

I am undergoing physical therapy and taking pain medication.  I have another doctors appointment Tuesday, Nov. 25.  I anticipate it will take another couple of months for my injuries to heal.  It is possible I may need a shoulder replacement.

Thanks for the article and any assistance you can provide.

With warm regards, Jim McInnis 


Yes - we keep getting letters and I post them on the article - and out legal columnists write about the subject as well in November 2012 – which you can find on our website under Barrister Bits My friend who suffered the fall that started this article finally got a settlement from her lawsuit but it took two years and she has had a long road back to recovery. ~ Vesta

I tripped over one and broke my shoulder my elbow and nine facial bones including my nose and eye orbit. The store claims it was not their fault but offer me one thousand dollars .My hospital bill was 29 thousands and that's not counting the 3 specialist and the ambulance.  I am 63 years old

Belle Martin