Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Side Streets: Colorado Springs neighbors saved by guardrail built after newspaper campaign

By Bill Vogrin Updated: August 27, 2014 at 10:14 am

For years, the intersection where Vindicator Drive meets Rockrimmon Boulevard has hosted one demolition derby after another.

Neighbors on Dillon Circle who back up to the "T" intersection have counted 14 wrecks in 17 years that involved cars leaving the road, smashing their fences and ending up in their backyards.

In almost every case, the driver came flying down the steep, winding Vindicator and couldn't make the turn. One time, about 15 years ago, a young woman in a Toyota pickup crashed through the fences and slammed into a house, damaging the dining room. A short time later a soda delivery truck crashed through the fences, coming to a stop in the backyard. In yet another crash, a car obliterated part of the fence and landed in a neighbor's hot tub.

Assorted other wrecks simply wiped out sections of privacy fence, leaving neighbors like Mitch Logue afraid to use their yards.

Crash No. 14 occurred around 1 a.m. on Aug. 17 and it had the potential to wreak havoc.

But there was a big difference this time than with all the wrecks in the past.

This time the houses were protected by a $10,000 guardrail, built by the city in 2010 after repeated Side Streets reports of the danger to homeowners.

Mitch has lived through all the mayhem over the years and rates this wreck - the first since the guardrail was installed - among the worst.

"This crash left all the others in the dust in terms of overall damage," Mitch said.

And he shudders to think what might have happened if the guardrail wasn't there to contain the damage.

"He'd have plowed into one of our houses," Mitch said of the driver, identified by Colorado Springs police as 19-year-old Matthew Prestwidge. "Who knows how far that vehicle would have gone into our yards and possibly even into one of our houses?"

The police report said Prestwidge came roaring down Vindicator at an estimated 55 mph - 20 mph over the limit - in a 2011 Ford Fusion and went out of control.

When Prestwidge tried to stop, the Fusion started to skid, slammed into the curb on the north side of Vindicator and continued east through the intersection, plowing into the curb, across the sidewalk and launching itself into the guardrail, the police report said.

Police measured 327.6 feet of skid marks and the wreck left gouges in the concrete curb and scarred the sidewalk.

And the damage to the 150-foot-long guardrail was impressive. The steel is severely bent where the Fusion hit. The impact turned the wooden support posts into toothpicks for several feet in each direction.

The force of the wreck caused the entire guardrail to compress. The wooden posts at either end, 75 feet away, are bent and sagging toward the middle.

And, of course, the fences surrounding two backyards directly behind the guardrail were extensively damaged. And trees behind the fence lost more bark where the guardrail and fencing hit them.

But Mitch is used to that kind of stuff. He is just happy things didn't turn out worse.

"The guardrail saved a lot more damage," Mitch said.

And it may have saved Prestwidge's life. Directly behind the fence of Mitch's neighbor, where most of the damage occurred, sits a line of large boulders installed by previous owners in what I call "nature's guardrail."

Had Prestwidge flown a few feet farther east, he'd have hit one of the boulders, perhaps with deadly results.

Instead, Prestwidge was not injured. His Fusion, however, was severely damaged. The impact even ripped one tire and rim completely off the car. He was cited for careless driving, according to the police report.

Prestwidge told police he was going no faster than 40 mph, saw the stoplight and hit the brakes, only to start sliding on what police described as clear, dry pavement. Prestwidge told police he applied the emergency brake to "set it back down" but hit the curb and slid across the intersection and into the guardrail, causing the airbags to deploy. He smelled smoke, climbed out of the passenger side and was greeted by police. He declined to talk to me about the wreck.

If this all sounds familiar, it's because the same thing happened on South Chelton Road this year. In February, a car plowed into a guardrail the city installed in 2009 after a similar Side Streets campaign. Neighbors there also credited the guardrail for saving them from mayhem like they had experienced for years.

Back in Rockrimmon, Mitch is just amazed at the damage and what could have been, and he has only one more question: how soon will the guardrail be replaced so he can relax and use his yard again?

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Read my blog updates at blogs.gazette.com/sidestreets.

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