EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 12, 2014

Man tired of cars crashing in yard

Police to watch area, after one car hits house

By Mike LaBella
mlabella@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — A man whose home is on one of the busiest streets in the city said he’s tired of cars ending up in his front yard.

Neil Stephenson, whose home is at 1028 Main St. on Route 125, wants the city to solve the problem.

Stephenson said he emailed his concerns to local officials, including the mayor, chief of police and city councilors, asking what the city can do to prevent vehicles from ending up on his property.

He said the first time it happened was in 2012 and that it’s happened twice since December.

Stephenson said the latest incident happened early Sunday morning, when a driver who thought he was being chased by police lost control of his car and ended up in Stephenson’s front yard. The car came to a stop just a few feet from the front of Stephenson’s house.

“The city needs to do something,” he said. “Police need to come up here and see what’s going on.”

Stephenson was contacted yesterday by police Capt. Michael Wrenn in response to his email.

Wrenn told The Eagle-Tribune that police will conduct a traffic study, which includes installing a traffic counter on a utility pole near Stephenson’s home. The data will provide police with the average speed of vehicles passing by and the day and time, Wrenn said.

“This will allow us to deploy our resources most effectively, assuming there is a speed problem occurring,” Wrenn said.

“We’ll also put a speed board out (digital light board) which is an effective tool for drivers who may not be paying attention to their speed,’’ he said, ‘‘and we’ll supplement that with additional enforcement.’’

Stephenson, 50, works in his home repairing electronics such as tube and solid state amplifiers, as well as string instruments such as guitars and cellos. He said he was home during all three incidents involving cars on his property.

According to police, on the night of Nov. 28, 2012, a driver who was fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run crash at the McDonald’s on Main Street, lost control of his vehicle, which ended up in Stephenson’s front yard.

“It was about 9:30 p.m. and I heard a crash,” Stephenson said. “A car took out 16 feet of my stockade fence, then spun around and hit my house, damaging the front and destroying a window.”

He said he is reluctant to replace the wooden fence fearing it will be destroyed again.

He said that on Dec. 21 about 4 p.m., a vehicle exiting a neighbor’s driveway was cut off by another vehicle and ended up in his snow-covered front yard.

“If you’re coming south, there’s a curve in the road and, if you lose control, you jump the curb and sail into my yard,” Stephenson said. “These are strange situations, but the frequency seems to be increasing. The trend is that someone may really badly crash into my house.”

Stephenson said the latest uninvited visitor was a compact car going south on Main Street on Sunday about 1:15 a.m.

“Police told me they were behind him on another call and for some reason he sped up, lost control, and ended up about three feet from the front of my house,” Stephenson said. “I just happened to be up and sitting on the couch when I saw lights. I said to myself, ‘Not again.’”

According to police, a 22-year-old Lawrence man was charged with failure to stop for police and operating to endanger. Police said they weren’t chasing him at the time, but for some reason the driver sped up then lost control on ice, ending up in Stephenson’s front yard.

“I’ve spoken to other neighbors and we’re all concerned about the lack of speed limit signs,” Stephenson said. “Whenever the traffic isn’t bumper to bumper, people are speeding and it’s been getting worse.”

Police said the unusual circumstances surrounding the three vehicles that ended up in Stephenson’s front yard were not the “run of the mill” type of speeding issues.

Stephenson said he’s thought about possible solutions, such as installing a guardrail or putting up flashing speed limit signs.

“People have told me to put a bunch of rocks in my yard, but if I did that I could be liable if someone got injured,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt anyone. The problem isn’t happening on my property, but it’s ending up on it.”