Latest crash heats up call for traffic calming

Published February 2, 2007

Karen Tuttle was watching television with her husband on Friday when she heard the crash.

"Like metal hitting rock," she said.

What Tuttle heard was Elijah Heath's GMC sport utility vehicle slamming into a cinder block column about 10 p.m. near the entrance to Sandhill Ridge in FishHawk Ranch.

A Hillsborough County sheriff's report said Heath was traveling "at a high rate of speed" when he missed a bend along Dorman Road and hit the column, knocking it over.

Heath, 30, was not seriously injured.

Deputies measured his blood-alcohol level at 0.2 percent and charged the financial analyst with driving under the influence.

Deputies also charged Brandon attorney Mara Lynn Shaughnessy, who shares a house with Heath and who followed him to the accident scene, with obstructing the investigation.

Heath could not be reached for comment. Shaughnessy declined to comment.

The wreck gave Kent Johnson, who lives directly across the street from the crash site, one more argument in a campaign he has waged for the past year: getting a couple of speed bumps along that curve in Dorman Road, a 25 mph zone.

"I'm totally disgusted," said Johnson, 46, a retired Air Force officer. "You're not even safe in your own yard."

Johnson was still moving boxes into his home in 2005 when the driver of a Mercedes took out his mailbox while Johnson's 5-year-old daughter was playing in the yard.

He started collecting the signatures the county requires to consider installing speed bumps. He needed five but collected at least 40.

Those efforts got the Dorman Road neighbors on a waiting list. The request has not yet come to a hearing.

The county's public works department averages five to seven new traffic calming projects a year, said Buz Barbour, who manages traffic programs for the county.

With more than 55 neighborhoods waiting in line, Barbour said, "You can do the math."

News of the wreck came as no surprise to Dennis Scott, Johnson's next-door neighbor until late last year.

In May, Scott was driving east on Dorman when a car ran a stop sign at Churchview Drive and pulled in front of him.

As a result, Scott's wife, Lisa, lost the vision in her left eye.

"That's why I left," Scott said.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at 661-2431 or ameacham@sptimes.com.