Vehicles often wreck after missing the turn.
Mary Ann Whitaker enjoys her house, where she has resided since 1972, but there is one problem. Cars and motorcycles at times can’t negotiate the turn in front of her house at 7 Fluhart Drive. They hit a guardrail at the front of her lawn or sometimes miss the guardrail and end up in her yard or even strike her house.
Her house is located where northbound Riverside Drive takes a sharp right turn, becoming Fluhart Drive. There is a flashing light down the road warning of the turn; raised reflectors to guide cars through the turn; and finally, the guardrail.
“The guardrail has done a good job,” she said recently.
Unfortunately, the guardrail now lies in a crumpled heap where it used to stand, along the front of her house. It has been in that position since being destroyed by a car in June.
There was another accident later that summer when “a little red sports car” crashed into her house through the wall of the bedroom where her mother slept when she was alive, Whitaker said. It pushed all of the furniture to the other side.
“I was watching the Olympics and I heard a huge noise,” she said. “I thought, ‘What in the heavens.’”
When she got to the front of the house, the car had backed out of the house and the driver was OK, protected by side and front air bags.
She believes the car would have missed the guardrail, had it been in place.
A HISTORY OF CRASHES
Asked how often a vehicle has ended up in her yard or struck her house since 1972, she estimates about a dozen times. She said it was not as bad in the 1970s, when there were fewer houses and cars.
Police reports confirm four incidents in 2016 where a vehicle failed to make the turn: In June, when the guardrail was smashed; later when the sports car hit the house; and twice when a motorcycle was “laid down” by the driver after missing the turn. Also, the porch at 15 Fluhart Drive was hit by a vehicle this year.
Police reports show a motorcycle hit the garage door of Whitaker’s house in 2015, and she remembers this incident. A woman rider failed to make the turn, missed the guardrail, and ran into the garage. She was injured and her husband and child were on a motorcycle behind her.
On the west side of Whitaker’s house is a highway memorial marker for a rider who died after hitting a tree on a motorcycle in 2009.
There were no police reports of accidents for 2012 through 2014, but Mac Smith, a neighbor across Riverside Drive, says he often hears vehicles hit the guardrail. He said he hears a screech of tires and then a “whomp.”
He and Whitaker say that many of the accidents happen late at night. They tend to happen to drivers who are “under the weather,” Whitaker said, hinting alcohol may often be involved.
NEW STANDARDS DELAY REPLACEMENT
The missing guardrail concerns Smith, who has corresponded by email with City Manager Joyce Shanahan about it not being put back into place. He said that in the past, city crews would put the guardrail back up “within a few days.”
The delay for replacing the guardrail was caused by new standards by the Florida Department of Transportation, involving the height, post spacing and end designs, Shanahan told Smith in an email. Before a contractor could be hired, the city had to hire a transportation engineer to certify the replacement guardrail.
Smith is still frustrated.
“The question in my mind is, how complex can the installation of a basic roadway guardrail be?” he said.
Recently, Shanahan referred questions on the status of the project to Shawn Finley, city civil engineer. He said the city now has an approved design, but the contractor was delayed by Hurricane Matthew because of roadwork obligations.
Also, he said the city conducted a study to be sure the guardrail is installed in a way to provide the maximum safety for the residents.
“We don’t want to compromise on safety,” he said. “We want to measure twice and cut once.”
He said they are now ready to go as soon as the contractor is free to work on it.
“How complex can the installation of a basic roadway guardrail be?”
MAC SMITH, resident