In a comprehensive report released this morning, The Federal Transportation & Traffic Administration (FTTA) is recommending to Federal and State lawmakers that retail superstores be required to install in-store traffic lights and stop signs for electric-carts. The FTTA Report follows a 14-month investigation into the alarming rise in electric-cart casualties and associated incidents of violence (called ‘aisle-rage‘ in the FTTA report). While retailers originally offered electric carts as a service for customers of advanced age, or with medical conditions that made walking difficult or impossible, the FTTA Report illustrates how the steady rise in America’s obesity rate over the last twenty years has brought the unforeseen consequence of a corresponding rise in electric-cart usage. In 1995, for instance, the average age of a cart-rider was 74-years-old, while statistics in the FTTA Report show that the average age of a cart-rider was only 42-years-old in 2013.
With more cart traffic in superstore aisles each year, and more than 12,000 electric-cart accidents and aisle-rage incidents reported annually, the FTTA is urging that action be taken before any deaths occur. To date, most injuries have been limited to cuts, bruises or broken bones, but there have also been a number of beatings and stabbings resulting from outbursts of aisle-rage between cart-pushers and cart-riders. In perhaps the most well-known and highly publicized case, three electric-carts in a Cincinnati Walmart collided with two push-carts in front of a sale on OREOs in 2011, and the resulting fracas left three people hospitalized and destroyed more than 20% of the store’s cookie inventory.
The FTTA believes incidents like these will increase in both frequency and severity unless steps are taken to better control traffic-flow during busy hours. “These vast stores were built for lots of people, but they were not built for lots of people driving motorized vehicles”, states the FTTA Report, “And especially not at speeds that may be up to two or three times faster than an average person’s walking-pace. During peak weekend shopping hours, a Frozen Pizza aisle can be as dangerous as the Daytona 500. It’s time to move stop signs, lights and one-way streets indoors.”
The Retail Industry has vowed to fight the passage or implementation of any new laws & regulations. In an Open Statement posted on the website for The American Federation of Superstore Alliances Foundation, they refute the FTTA’s conclusions. “These isolated incidents in no way constitute any significant threat to our millions of satisfied customers. The industry already has its own Policy in place, for issuing gift cards to anyone injured within a superstore, with dollar-values commensurate with the severity of the injury inflicted. Our commitment to safety was proven again in 2012, when the Superstore Industry embarked on a program to install airbags in every electric cart in the country by 2020. To further burden the Industry by forcing the implementation of complex and costly traffic-control systems & equipment could raise our prices so high that the average electric-cart rider could no longer afford to shop with us anyway.”
Today’s FTTA Report is sure to intensify debate on the subject of obesity, as it comes less than two weeks after The American Medical Association (AMA) announced they would be considering the addition of a new classification to their Obesity-Scale. The well-known scale, which divides above-normal body-weight into the categories of Overweight, Obese, and Morbidly Obese, may soon be joined by a category called ‘Depressingly Obese’. Still a highly controversial move within the Medical Community, many of whom believe any distinction between Morbidly and Depressingly Obese is ‘splitting-hairs’ at best, the issue will likely be put to a vote by AMA Members at Pharmapalooza 2014, the AMA’s annual rave and leadership convention in Las Vegas, which begins on August 6.