Samia Zohdy was standing in her front yard when a car traveling through her neighborhood jumped the curb and struck her. She spent the next month in a hospital recovering from a broken pelvis.
That accident, which occurred in June 2006, is one of a handful of similar incidents that Zohdy and her family say have troubled the area for years. The home, at 1046 Circle Ave., sits at the northeast corner of the intersection with Fillmore. On Nov. 9, 2009, Zohdy’s house was struck by a car with such force that, she said, cracks in the foundation were left behind. In November 2006 a driver wiped out a stop sign that controls traffic along Fillmore and, when Zohdy and her husband bought the home in 1990, the previous owners told them the house had been struck by a vehicle.
Police recently confirmed all of these incidents but one – the alleged accident prior to 1990 – and were asked to weigh in on a request from the Zohdys that some additional traffic calming measures be introduced to the intersection. David Zohdy, Samia Zohdy’s adult son, addressed the council on his parents’ behalf. His parents are fearful of even mowing their lawn, he said.
“We brought this forward mainly as a safety concern,” David Zohdy told the council.
Specifically, they asked whether stop signs could be added to govern cars traveling on Circle. That request was rejected by the village’s traffic and safety committee in January, and again by the council during its Feb. 8 meeting.
“There are a number of traffic accidents that occur on the street, and they’re just going to happen,” Chief Jim Ryan said.
Samia Zohdy was disappointed to see that her request gained no traction with elected officials.
“People are reckless, but you have to be careful, too, and do something,” she said of the village’s role.
During their discussion, several council members expressed concern that granting Zohdy’s request for additional stop signs would put them on a slippery slope to installing signs all over town. Annually, village officials get a few requests from residents who are unhappy with how traffic moves through their neighborhood, said Mayor Anthony Calderone, and most often the remedy sought is to install more stop signs. Circle Avenue in particular, said the mayor, is one of Forest Park’s few through arteries and needs to function as such.
The police chief agreed.
“Circle is a main street through town and you can’t just put stop signs at every corner or you’re just going to bog things down,” Ryan said.
Village officials also downplayed the effectiveness of stop signs when it comes to slowing traffic. Motorists tend to rush to the next intersection after a stop sign, said Ryan. And, in the case of those specific accidents at 1046 Circle, police determined that additional traffic signs would have made little difference.
When Zohdy was struck in her yard in 2006, the driver of that car told police she accidentally hit the gas pedal when she meant to use the brake.
“The behavior of motorists, generally, is not what it should be,” Calderone said. “People drive too fast.”
Just south of the Zohdy’s home, at 1100 Circle, lives Madeleine Holdsworth. In 2006, said Holdsworth, her home was struck by a car and she had to rebuild that corner of her home. She has not asked the village about additional safety measures for the intersection, but expressed some doubt as to whether motorists would take heed anyway. The speed limit in her neighborhood is 25 mph, and Holdsworth said that for most of the cars going by there is no way they are traveling that slowly.
“I think a big problem in Forest Park is people run stop signs all the time,” Holdsworth said.
According to Zohdy, the house directly west of hers, across Circle Avenue, has twice had cars in its yard.
Ryan said his department has no record of any houses at that intersection – other than the Zohdy’s – being struck. Though no additional stop signs will be installed, the police department offered to send additional traffic patrols to the area.