NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — One car went so fast that when it hit a tree, it began to disintegrate and parts of the car were embedded in a nearby house.
Another car plowed through a backyard fence and then struck the home with such force that the fire marshal said it’s unfit to live in.
These crashes happened in just the past two months in a residential section of Norfolk along Hampton Boulevard, between the campus of Old Dominion University and Naval Station Norfolk. So far this year, Norfolk Police have issued more than 1,000 tickets for speeding or reckless driving in that stretch, or 35% of all reckless and speeding violations for the entire city.
“It’s been going on since we’ve been living in Larchmont and probably decades before then,” said Rebecca Coro, a registered nurse who has lived on Hampton Blvd. for 35 years.
“We are out on Hampton Blvd. a bit more than the other locations so it’s definitely a focus for us,” said Lt. Mike Felix, who runs NPD’s traffic enforcement unit.
On a recent Thursday evening about 7 o’clock, 10 On Your Side used a radar gun to see just how fast. The speed limit is 30 mph.
In about 40 minutes, we clocked drivers at 47, 48, 49, 50, and even 51 in a residential section lined with homes, sidewalks, and often people.
“When I’m mowing my grass I see people in these electric scooters going all the time and sometimes there’s kids, strollers, and dogs,” said Coro’s grandson Xavier.
An October 25 crash happened just two doors down. After blasting through a fence, the car littered the back yard with debris and smashed into the rear of a house on Rockbridge Ave. with such force the fire marshal declared the home unfit.
“My son finally found the driver of the accident and he was trying to climb out of the automobile,” Rebecca Coro said. “I had to get him to lie down because he was bleeding profusely.”
Deniece Byrne lives in a different neighborhood, but her teenagers have friends in the area near the boulevard. “I can’t imagine sitting in your living room and having a car come in from speeding like that. That’s horrific,” she said regarding the October 25 crash.
Coro has seen so many accidents, she’s uses her medical trainer and often becomes the de facto first responder.
“Oh, we’ve had to [treat people]. I have things in the bathroom that I can grab really easily and run out the door, including a stack of towels. You need them in case somebody’s bleeding really badly.”
She says when the moon comes out, so do the reckless drivers. “If you’re away late at night, you do not want to get on that road, because it’s a drag race.”
The worst crash in recent memory happened the night before Labor Day when Coro says two cars “were drag racing in the middle of the night.”
A passenger in an Infiniti was killed after the car went over the median, struck a tree, lost a wheel, and crashed. “That’s about as bad as they get,” she said.
Parts of the car flew like shrapnel into Chris Castle’s house. But lately, He and other area residents are encouraged by Norfolk police actions.
They’ve posted a speed sign that clocks and displays a driver’s speed.
“I see every single car slowing down when they actually see their speed,” Castle said.
And then there’s a police cruiser that sits on the median just north of the bridge over the Lafayette River –even if it is sometimes unoccupied.
“Maybe they’re there, maybe they’re not. But it reminds people to slow down,” Castle said.
Police get a sense of feedback on the impact of speeding by monitoring the Waze app, where drivers can alert others that speed enforcement is in place
“People are pinging us, so when people are going down that road they’re saying the cops are at Hampton Blvd. on the Waze app, and that’s a win for us because it’s slowing people down,” Felix said.
Mike Cutter and his family witnessed the deadly crash on Labor Day weekend. He says lately there’s been progress.
“With the police vehicle there often if not always, the blinking lights and speed checks, that’s been helpful,” said resident Mike Cutter. He was in the family car with his teenaged son at the wheel when they witnessed the Labor Day weekend crash.
Felix says the next major effort will be speed zone cameras, which will have to go through an approval process by the city council. By Virginia law, they’re limited by law to school and work zones. The first one could be in place by some time next year.
“We’re looking at putting the first one out on Hampton Blvd. right by Bolling Avenue,” he said. “We just need people to slow down.”