Last year I was working in the home office when I heard a horrible screeching noise, a thump, and I felt the house shake. I use the cats as a gauge to determine whether or not to panic; DaVinci was clinging to the futon with all his fur standing straight up, so I threw on shoes and ran downstairs to see what was going on. And there it was – a Ford Escort sitting in my front yard.
Now, I should point out that this isn’t unusual in Culpeper. In fact, it’s more a rite of passage to get a car in your yard than it is an aberrant event. Here’s a story about a naked woman who crashed a U-Haul truck into someone’s yard a few blocks away. There have been several other front yard crashes since we’ve lived here, including one where the mayor and the Commonwealth’s attorney chased the (drunk) driver down when he fled on foot. Wait, why do I ever complain about living here? This is fascinating!
So anyhow, the girl driving had no idea how she got there. Unsure whether she was messed up or just her car was, I made her sit tight till the cops got there. When they did… it’s a small town. There were fewer cruisers chasing OJ than there were parked in front of my house. It turns out that she had been making a left onto the side street when her tire blew, so she lost control and barely missed my house, skidding to a stop inches from my oakleaf hydrangeas. We can chalk this up as one more thing for which I’m grateful, but it brought up a new concern: how do I stop this from happening in the future? For those who live in normal towns, how do we keep cars from parking on the grass?
Clearly the “don’t park on my grass” sentiment is the more common issue. I grew up in New England, where putting a shovel 3″ into the ground means hitting a boulder. Since they were readily available, many of my neighbors placed large boulders along the edge of the grass to stop cars from driving across the grass. We also had a few folks who had curbs installed. It makes for a really nice, clean look, and can be done with either granite cobbles or a man-made product that looks similar.
In terms of stopping power (if that’s your thing), the curb won’t do a lot. The boulders will if they’re big enough, but there comes a point at which you have to decide if you really want to kill someone. The right answer is “no, I don’t,” in case that’s not clear. The video above is an extreme example, but it shows pretty clearly how powerful the forces at play are in a crash event like that.
What I’m probably going to do is look at a solution that will look really cool and provide a means of absorbing some of the speed and energy of an errant car, while not stopping them abruptly. Think of the arrestor hook on a plane landing on an aircraft carrier, allowing it to slow from over 100 mph to a dead stop, safely.
What works? Anything that will break away on impact but is heavy enough to slow the vehicle. Thick wooden fenceposts could work, as could a dry-stacked stone wall. Truth be told, anyone who misses their turn at my corner will probably be coming at such an oblique angle that I could use stone columns without feeling like I was going to hurt someone.
It’s crazy that I actually have to worry about these things, but that’s life in Culpeper. What’s the strangest design challenge you have?