Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What caued 2 cars to crash into this house

Jack Lakey
Once may be an accident, but when two vehicles sail through an intersection and slam into the same house in three weeks, there's a bigger problem than poor eyesight or too much to drink.
It was good news-bad news early Sunday for the residents of 42 South Kingslea Dr.: A vehicle crashed through a front window of their bungalow and stopped in the master bedroom. But the couple had moved out after the same thing happened 20 days earlier, so they were in no danger of being struck by a car while in bed.
A 25-year-old man driving north on Park Lawn Rd. failed to come to a stop where the street ends at South Kingslea, soared through the intersection and ended up in the house, police said. He has been charged with impaired driving.
The occupants, a couple in their 40s, were forced to move after structural damage was caused Feb. 2 when a car driven by a man in his late 80s also hurtled past the stop sign and crashed through a window just after the homeowner had walked out the front door.
Area residents say the accidents have a lot to do with a reconfiguration of the intersection of Park Lawn and South Kingslea a few years ago.
Sandra Girasoli, who lives beside the intersection at 351 Park Lawn, said vehicles have often knocked over the stop sign just north of her laneway since the spot where Park Lawn meets South Kingslea was moved several metres to the west. Standing at the intersection and looking across at the battered house, it seems impossible to steer a vehicle into it, unless it was deliberately targeted.
Park Lawn descends a hill as it approaches South Kingslea, then curves to the right just before the intersection. Even if a driver didn't stop, he'd have to make a 90-degree right turn onto South Kingslea, proceed a few metres east, then crank the wheel hard to the left to run a vehicle at the house.
It would require a level of precision beyond all but a stunt driver, never mind the elderly or drunk.
Curving the north end of Park Lawn more to the west would seem to make it harder for drivers to collide with houses on South Kingslea, which makes two such accidents in a few weeks even more baffling.
Toronto transportation services officials are no less flummoxed, so much so that Allan Smithies, manager of traffic planning in that area, met with us at the scene to figure out why it's happening.
Until the reconfiguration, Park Lawn curved gradually to the east where it met South Kingslea, said Smithies, allowing drivers who blew the stop sign to cross the street more directly, making it easier to crash into the house.
The reconfiguration made it more of a T intersection, he said, but the construction also lengthened the Girasolis' driveway.
We accompanied Smithies part way up the hill on Park Lawn, so we could look down toward the intersection from the same vantage point as drivers approaching it, where he worked out a theory about the cause of the accidents.
"It's nighttime, it's dark and you're probably coming down the hill towards the stop sign too fast," he explained. "You look and see a stop sign with a big patch of asphalt to the right of it," which is the Girasolis' driveway but could easily be mistaken for South Kingslea.
To a driver who believes the driveway is actually South Kingslea, they might also conclude the stop sign is in a traffic island in the middle of the intersection and swing to the left of it – towards the driveway – when they're supposed to come to a stop with the stop sign on their right, said Smithies.
It makes sense, and squares with Sandra Girasoli's observation that other drivers have mowed down the stop sign by crossing the end of her laneway instead of curving to the left, as they're supposed to.
For now, cement barriers will be put up on in front of the house, but Smithies said the intersection will be re-examined with a mind to making it more visible to drivers.

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