Woman campaigns for highway barriers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 27, 2000

CLAYTON, La. – At 9:30 p.m. Friday, America Dunbar decided to lie down in her bedroom rather than watch TV on her living room couch — and it’s a good thing, since a car came barreling into her living room 20 minutes later. &uot;I sat up on the edge of the bed when I heard the noise, but I was scared to move because I&160;didn’t know if the car was going to drive all the way through the house,&uot; Dunbar said. &uot;There was no way out from where I was.&uot; When she walked into her living room, &uot;I just started hollering. … Everyone was standing around outside.&uot;

The driver of the car, 51-year-old David L. Tarver of 309 Green Acres in Vidalia, was booked into the Concordia Parish Jail on charges of driving while intoxicated (first offense), criminal damage to property and running a stop sign. He was released on a $1,500 bond. This not the first time Dunbar or her neighbors, who live near the intersection of busy Louisiana 15 and U.S. 65, have had cars run into their houses. Last October, another car ran into Dunbar’s house, also ramming into her porch and living room.

So Dunbar said she plans to keep pushing the Town of Clayton and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to erect some type of barrier in front of her house to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Email newsletter signup

Dunbar said she has talked with town officials about erecting such a barrier, only to be told the town could not do so — and that if she put up a makeshift barrier of her own, she would be liable for any accidents it caused. Dunbar said she would also be satisfied if reflectors were placed on U.S. 65 near the intersection.

Ricky Moon, district construction engineer for the DOTD, said he has not heard of any requests for such a barrier or reflectors.

He did say Louisiana 15 is scheduled to be four-laned through Clayton in 2002 and that that project will include reconfiguration of the U.S. 65/Louisiana 15 intersection.

&uot;But it would be highly unusual for that to include a barrier like she’s talking about,&uot; Moon said.

He pointed out that the intersection already has a stop sign and flashing caution lights.

Becky White, whose trailer is located on a diagonal from Dunbar’s back yard — and also almost directly in U.S. 65’s path — said she has lived there off and on for 28 years.

&uot;This problem has been happened ever since I can remember,&uot; White said. &uot;We don’t go six to nine months without a car coming off U.S. 65 and hitting something, or nearly hitting something.

&uot;Usually, it’s the light pole down the street,&uot; she added, pointing past her trailer to a utility pole.

White admits that her trailer has never been hit, although she estimates that the one vehicle stopped just two or three feet from her front door.

&uot;I don’t let my kids sleep in that bedroom,&uot; she said, gesturing to the side of the trailer that lies closest to the vehicles’ path. &uot;They might get hit.&uot;

But White added that she cannot afford to move permanently.

Meanwhile, an insurance adjuster came to inspect the damage to Dunbar’s home Wednesday afternoon. The roof of her porch was completely torn down, and timbers were scattered throughout the yard.

Inside, the kitchen at the back of the house was jarred so violently that food was knocked out of the cabinets.

Friends and relatives had helped Dunbar nail pieces of plastic, tin and lumber to the front of her house &uot;to help keep the critters out.&uot; Otherwise, there would be a gaping hole leading straight into her living room.

&uot;I just hope something is done to stop this before somebody does get hurt,&uot; she said.