Catherine Sinclair said that it’s just a matter of time before the reoccurring issue that has been taking place on Destrehan’s Dunleith Drive becomes fatal.
“I am yelling right now and saying we have a traffic problem … do something,” she said. “It took flooding for them to look at drainage … it shouldn’t take a fatality for them to get off their butts and do something. Don’t sit back on your laurels and say it’s not your problem.”
Sinclair said the persistent speeding and reckless driving that has been taking place on Dunleith, where she lives, has gotten worse over the years. She said it’ll take work by both the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office and the St. Charles Parish Council to help curb the issue.
“People speed down the road, so we don’t even park in the road … we park in the grass in front of our house for that reason,” she said. “It’s really sad.”
On the night of June 25 a driver hit Sinclair’s mailbox and car, as well as the mailbox and car of a neighbor.
“He was flying,” Sinclair said of the driver. “But this is par for the course. We need speed bumps or something on Dunleith between Magnolia and Ashland. This is out of control. Blood will be on their hands. Our neighbor was at the street’s edge four minutes before this jerk came barreling down. He could have been killed.”
If the driver had not been slowed down by hitting her car, Sinclair said, her home would have been the next target of the speeding vehicle.
“I’m really mad,” she said. “That guy was on trajectory to take my son’s bedroom out. This is ridiculous.”
St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said the incident took place just after 11 p.m.
“The driver was drunk, arrested and charged with reckless operation with accident, other traffic charges and driving while intoxicated,” Champagne said. “He was booked into the Nelson Coleman Correctional Center. This was not simply a matter of the general ‘speeding’ problem.”
Sinclair said she appreciates the deputies who spent two hours at her home that night processing the accident. She explained that many drivers have gotten all too comfortable with using Dunleith Drive as a way to bypass Ormond Boulevard.
“It is used as a thoroughfare to get to the back instead of Stanton Hall. They see a straight away and floor it. Stanton Hall is extra wide … it’s been engineered to receive the traffic for high-density housing,” Sinclair said. “I’m not a city planner, but whoever laid it out did it to receive higher traffic. But people have figured out that if they cut through Ormond they can get to the back and don’t have to stop at stop signs. They can gun it. It’s like somebody opened the gate … they haul butt.”
Sinclair said she and her neighbors all have young children, and that many homeowners on the street are worried about the possibility of one of their children getting hurt.
“In a very tight area you have half a dozen kids,” she said. “We’ve done everything we can to stop it. One day about a year ago my neighbor was coming home … and his dog was in the car. It wasn’t even five seconds and dog jumped out and ran into the street … and a driver just killed his dog.”
She said after that incident she went back to the sheriff’s office – a place she said she has visited many times with the traffic and speeding concerns that have gotten worse over the five years that she’s lived on Dunleith.
“It’s not just cars,” Sinclair said. “There are ATVS and motor bikes ripping down the street well in excess of 25 miles per hour with no safety gear. We have laws for a reason. We have laws to protect the safety and well-being of the people who live here.”
Sinclair said she knows the employees of the sheriff’s office can only do so much, and that’s why she’d like the council to get involved.
“Our council … I get it you want to grow the parish, but they need to look at the density of the traffic moving on these roads and study it,” she said. “I just had $45,000 car demolished. There’s a safety aspect. Cops can’t always be there … I get that. I’m a reasonable person … so put something in to make them slow down. It needs to happen because somebody is going to get killed. It’s coming.”
Sinclair said the smaller streets that surround Ormond Boulevard have unique safety concerns.
“It’s much, much more dangerous on these perimeter roads where you have kids playing,” she said. “There are no bike paths and the roads aren’t engineered for the speeds they’re going.”
District 3 Councilman Dick Gibbs, who represents the Ormond area, confirmed it is in the council’s scope of power to request speed bumps. He said concerns by Ormond area residents about speeding vehicles are very common.
“Our sheriff’s department keeps a high profile of patrol and observation,” Gibbs said. “They set up electronic speeding signs to deter speeders. Unfortunately, with all their efforts, we will continue to have people that speed … and the only real deterrence is being highly visible with patrol, set up electronic speed signs and run radar.”
Beth Billings, Councilwoman At-Large for Division A, said she visited Sinclair after hearing of the crash.
“I watched the video and saw the violence of that crash,” Billings said. “It was horrific. I am working with the parish administration on what can be done to stem the speeding on that street.”
Billings said improving Stanton Hall will hopefully encourage a more orderly ingress and egress at the Ormond/Stanton Hall intersection and lead to a reduction of traffic and speeding down the side street.
“I have worked with several St. Charles Parish residents regarding speeding and traffic issues throughout the parish, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution for all areas,” Billings said. “For example, I am currently working with the administration to improve the traffic flow and diminish speeding issues on Stanton Hall Drive and Dunleith Drive in Destrehan. The two streets will have very different solutions despite being near each other.”
Billings said while residents should reach out to the sheriff’s office in an emergency or unsafe situation, the St. Charles Parish administration should also be informed of other chronic traffic or speeding issues.
Champagne said traffic complaints and concerns such as speeding, running stop signs and running red lights are common and that his departments makes every effort to try and enforce all of them.
“Everyone needs to understand that we cannot be everywhere all the time,” he said. “Parish roadways literally are hundreds of miles when you add them all up. We try and focus on the main thoroughfares and streets with regular complaints.”
He said parish deputies issue between 13,000 and 15,000 traffic citations per year, and that that number does not include several thousand issued by the State Troopers who focus more on major state highways such as Airline, Highway 90 and Interstates 10 and 310.
“When we receive complaints on a particular street or roadway, we do our best to provide enforcement visibility,” Champagne said. “Many places provide little opportunity for us to hide marked units, so speeders slow down when we are present. We also deploy the mobile trailers to increase public awareness in some areas where we receive regular complaints.”
Champagne said he urges citizens to contact the patrol division staff under Captain Richard Oubre during business hours at 985-783-1145 to express traffic concerns and allow the department to focus on chronic violation areas.
He added that the sheriff’s office only provides manpower for enforcement, and that any physical barriers such as speed bumps, signs, etc. are the responsibility of the parish government.
“The issue of speed bumps has been talked about for years,” Champagne said. “Personally, I do not believe they are a good idea. While someone may feel it is needed in front of their home, I don’t think a parish full of constant speed bumps on our streets would be popular and would be quite irritating. Studies have shown that drivers simply tend to drive faster in between the speed bumps causing more problems.”
He added that there are also documented situations where irresponsible drivers swerving to avoid the bumps have hit pedestrians and bicyclists.
Parish Communications Director Samantha De Castro also confirmed that all traffic control measures on parish streets are within the parish’s control.
“Any traffic-calming measures may be requested and then carefully reviewed and evaluated by a qualified engineer who considers the roadway design, safety, and emergency access among other things,” she said. “Most of the time, speed bumps are not considered a safe application to control speed. The safety of our residents while on our roadways is always a concern, which is why we include traffic studies when engineering roadways.”