2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Wild-eyed drivers hellbent on destruction no longer threat on South Chelton

Published: February 14, 2014, 8:00 am, by Bill Vogrin
Side Streets reader Elke Dickinson took this photo of a guardrail on South Chelton Road after a pickup truck smashed into it and was impailed on the debris Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. The guardrail was installed in June 2009 by the city of Colorado Springs after neighbors complaints in a December 2008 Side Streets that cars were destroying their property and endangering pedestrians and residents. Courtesy photo.

Side Streets reader Elke Dickinson took this photo of a guardrail on South Chelton Road after a pickup truck smashed into it and was impailed on the debris Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. The guardrail was installed in June 2009 by the city of Colorado Springs after neighbors complaints in a December 2008 Side Streets that cars were destroying their property and endangering pedestrians and residents. Courtesy photo.

Last Friday afternoon, as snow fell on Colorado Springs, Elke Dickinson heard a “bang” and looked out the window of her home, which backs up to South Chelton Road near Valley Hi Golf Course.

For years, Dickinson and her neighbors in the Spring Lane subdivision have routinely heard loud noises followed by the sight of cars careening through their fences out of control.

Side Streets reader Elke Dickinson took this photo of a guardrail on South Chelton Road after a pickup truck smashed into it and was impailed on the debris Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. The guardrail was installed in June 2009 by the city of Colorado Springs after neighbors complaints in a December 2008 Side Streets that cars were destroying their property and endangering pedestrians and residents. Courtesy photo.

Side Streets reader Elke Dickinson took this photo of a guardrail on South Chelton Road after a pickup truck smashed into it and was impailed on the debris Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. The guardrail was installed in June 2009 by the city of Colorado Springs after neighbors complaints in a December 2008 Side Streets that cars were destroying their property and endangering pedestrians and residents. Courtesy photo.

Maniacal drivers, perhaps late for their tee times, come roaring down Chelton on a slight hill from Fountain Boulevard a few blocks south. They somehow fail to negotiate a gentle curve and launch their vehicles into the neighborhood.

Sometimes they roll over wildly. One destroyed a deck and hot tub. Twice a neighbor’s shed was smashed. A time or two cars plowed through fences and trees and came to rest against homes.

Dickinson’s fence was splintered twice by cars. A neighbor’s fence was hit six times!

So last Friday, reflexively, Dickinson checked out her window to see if mayhem had broken out in her backyard.

Seeing nothing, she got in her car and left her home. As she turned onto Chelton, she saw a pickup truck had plowed into a guardrail that now protects her backyard and those of her neighbors.

Side Streets reader Elke Dickinson took this photo of a guardrail on South Chelton Road after a pickup truck smashed into it and was impailed on the debris Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. The guardrail was installed in June 2009 by the city of Colorado Springs after neighbors complaints in a December 2008 Side Streets that cars were destroying their property and endangering pedestrians and residents.

Side Streets reader Elke Dickinson took this photo of a guardrail on South Chelton Road after a pickup truck smashed into it and was impailed on the debris Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. The guardrail was installed in June 2009 by the city of Colorado Springs after neighbors complaints in a December 2008 Side Streets that cars were destroying their property and endangering pedestrians and residents.

The rail was smashed. Posts were broken. The steel mangled. The truck was impaled amid the debris.

Earlier this week, Dickinson gave me a shout to tell me of the wreck.

And she wanted to say thanks.

While sad about the wreck, she was thrilled to report that her fence, as well as her neighbors’ fences, sheds and hot tubs, were untouched.

She knew I’d be interested because I’d written a Side Streets column about the South Chelton demolition derby in December 2008. I wrote about the chronic pileups and how neighbors had installed huge boulders along the road, “nature’s guardrails” as I called them, hoping to deter drivers seemingly hellbent on destruction.

“You published a column about . . . our problem with speeding cars on Chelton that were regularly demolishing our fence and endangering the people living here,” Dickinson reminded me.

Before Colorado Springs crews installed a steel guardrail, neighbors along South Chelton Road lined the curb with boulders in hopes of protecting themselves from marauding motorists who repeatedly destroyed fences, damaged trees, decks and even a hot tub in a series of wrecks in 2008. Gazette file photo.

Before Colorado Springs crews installed a steel guardrail, neighbors along South Chelton Road lined the curb with boulders in hopes of protecting themselves from marauding motorists who repeatedly destroyed fences, damaged trees, decks and even a hot tub in a series of wrecks in 2008. Gazette file photo.

At the time, I contacted Dave Krauth, then-city traffic engineer, who got busy pulling police accident reports and studying wreck data. By June 2009, crews had installed 200 feet of sturdy guardrail along the curve at a cost of $10,000.

I sometimes wondered if the guardrail had ever been tested.

Dickinson said that, in fact, it routinely caught marauding motorists and kept them off the sidewalk and out of Spring Lane backyards.

Here's how the new guardrail looked in June 2009 after installation along South Chelton Drive. Gazette file photo.

Here’s how the new guardrail looked in June 2009 after installation along South Chelton Drive. Gazette file photo.

“Over the years, it bore the scars of several car crashes,” Dickinson said. “The neighbors talk about that guardrail so often. ‘Did you hear that? Yup, I heard it.’ But nothing happens to our fences.”

The acid test came Friday in the snow.

“If this car would have hit the fence, it would have gone into (a neighbor’s) backyard, through the neighbor’s yard and into my backyard,” Dickinson said, remembering the path of another spectacular wreck that resulted in thousands of dollars in damage to the neighborhood before the guardrail’s installation.

“We are very thankful for that guardrail,” Dickinson said. “We are grateful to Dave Krauth for having it built. And we are grateful to you for bringing it to everyone’s attention.”

I’m glad I could help. And I hope the destroyed guardrail gets repaired soon before another wild-eyed driver is turned loose on Chelton.

This is a series of photos of a spectacular wreck in 2008 on South Chelton Road.

This is a series of photos of a spectacular wreck in 2008 on South Chelton Road.

———————————————————————