Escaping the runaway trolley
11 November 2003
Australia’s leading motoring insurer, NRMA Insurance, today released results from the world’s first shopping trolley crash test, revealing damage to cars alone costs the community $1 million every year.
Consumer frustration is on the rise with shopping trolleys ramming, hitting, scratching, denting and bumping cars on a daily basis in carparks and on the street. NRMA Insurance research shows the average cost of repair is around $800 with more than 1,000 significant damage incidents occurring each year.
Rick Jackson, Group Executive of Personal Insurance, NRMA Insurance said, “The cost of repairs and having to get around without a car for a few days while it gets fixed creates such an inconvenience for consumers.
“The danger of discarded and abandoned trolleys, carelessly left in parking spots or resting against poles, is not confined to carparks. More and more we are hearing reports of motorists hitting shopping trolleys that were dumped on the side of the road or in home unit car parks. There are many incidents recorded where a driver has swerved to avoid a trolley and has hit another object instead.”
With Christmas just around the corner where shoppers are out en masse, carparks are full and shopping trolleys are loaded with food and gifts, NRMA Insurance is warning consumers to be extra careful and vigilant about returning trolleys to their bay.
“As we approach the festive season, it is not uncommon for shopping trolleys to be filled to the brim. The extra weight contributes to the potential damage caused by a ‘runaway’ trolley. Heavy trolleys are also more difficult to control, particularly given that many trolleys appear to have a mind of their own when it comes to maneuvering.
“If trolleys are left unattended or perhaps get in the hands of a child, the speed of the trolley can get up to around 10 km per hour after travelling just a few metres. This kind of impact can create some real damage,” added Mr Jackson.
Although the number of shopping trolley incidents reported each year is in excess of 1,000, NRMA Insurance believes car damage caused by shopping trolleys affects many more people across the country.
“We believe the issue is much bigger than the numbers show. Many motorists simply don’t lodge a shopping trolley insurance claim because they will have to pay an excess and they fear they’ll lose part of their no claim discount even though it was not their fault.
“NRMA Insurance has recently addressed this concern by offering no claim discount level protection for our Motor Insurance customers, enabling them to keep their no claim discount when they are not at fault,” said Mr Jackson.
NRMA Insurance is also concerned about the environmental impact of trolleys being dumped in rivers and lakes, polluting waterways and clogging streams.
So what next?
In its research, NRMA Insurance considered what steps can be taken to mitigate the risk of shopping trolley-related incidents. Some ideas and recommendations include:
* Although it is the shoppers’ responsibility to return the trolleys to their rightful place, if this is not being done, then other options need to be explored by shopping centre managers and supermarkets. For example, monetary incentives to help make sure trolleys are returned by using a $2 deposit system. NRMA Insurance sees some merit in this. Initially, it may help change consumer behaviour by getting shoppers into the habit of putting trolleys back in their bays.
* There needs to be greater vigilance in the collection of shopping trolleys.
* Supermarkets and major retail chains are encouraged to look at replacing hard metal trolleys with trolleys that are more car friendly, such as made out of plastic or feature padding. NRMA Insurance is currently working with one manufacturer to create such a trolley.
* Supermarkets and major retail chains need to investigate systems that prevent people from being able to take trolleys out of carparks. This can be achieved through an alarm being activated to embarrass offenders or electronic devices that will automatically lock the wheels on any trolley that passes a certain point.
* Other possibilities include wheels with an ‘inbuilt speed limiting’ mechanism to prevent trolleys from getting out of control. NRMA Insurance’s Research Centre has found that the gradient in many shopping centre carparks and driveways enables unattended trolleys to quickly reach speeds of 10 to 16 km/hr.
* It is estimated by NRMA Insurance that shopping trolley-related incidents cost the community $1 million nationally per year.
* 73 per cent of shopping trolley-related claims are for damage caused by ‘runaway’ or out of control trolleys.
* 19 per cent of shopping trolley-related claims are for damage caused by cars hitting unreturned trolleys in carparks or colliding with other objects while avoiding the trolley.
* 8 per cent of shopping trolley-related claims are for damage caused by cars hitting abandoned trolleys in the street.
* Through its Motor Insurance product NRMA Insurance offers no claim discount level protection, enabling customers to keep their no claim discount when they are not at fault.