Cameras catch wayward drivers at roundabouts

KENNEWICK — Dave Krohn has installed high-tech surveillance to catch wayward motorists who keep bashing his fence at Union Street and 19th Avenue in Kennewick.

Krohn, the owner of 3.5 acres and a home at the accident-prone intersection, counts at least five times in the past six years that vehicles have crashed through his vinyl fencing. All but once, he has paid for the repairs.

"When they drive through and then keep going and then drive out the other side, that really gets me," Krohn said.

Two surveillance cameras he set up to monitor that part of the fence recorded a car doing exactly that early Saturday.

The small sedan came north on Union, didn't make the roundabout and shot through the fence at 5:28 a.m. Six seconds later, the cameras recorded bits of vinyl fencing scattering about, leading to where the car blasted through the fence again 60 feet away to get back onto Union Street.

Krohn said he reported the accident to Kennewick police, who told him they caught and arrested the suspect.

"He must have been speeding," Krohn said, judging from the camera angle that showed the car going out of control as it entered the roundabout.

Krohn said he intends to use his video evidence to try to recover the repair costs, which have averaged about $800 per broken fence post. Saturday's crash took out four posts because of the entry and exit damages.

"I would really like to catch these guys," Krohn said.

Kennewick's roundabout at 27th Avenue and Vancouver Street also is accident-prone. Bruce Pritchard at 2025 W. 27th has had to have his chain-link fence repaired several times.

John Deskins, city traffic engineer, said the roundabout next to Krohn's property has had nine crashes in seven years, while the roundabout on 27th Avenue next to Pritchard's home has seen 37 wrecks in the past six years, with seven injuries.

"It's bad drivers -- a couple of drunk drivers, and driver inattention. One spilled coffee and another was adjusting the radio," Deskins said. He recalls at least two accidents there involving drivers trying to elude a pursuing police car.

Krohn said the crashes usually happen when ice and snow make the roundabouts slick. And he remembers at least twice when the drivers simply hit his fence and sped on.

The video cameras provide an overview of his fence and the roundabout, plus close-up license plate identification.

"It is similar to what they have at banks and gas stations to prevent drive-off. I figure (the cameras) will be paid off with three accidents," Krohn said.

The fence smashed Saturday was the start of a bad week.

His wife's car took a $1,000 hit while parked at the River's Edge High School in Richland, too, Krohn said.

The offending driver took off without leaving a note, so that one will be another out-of-pocket expense.

* John Trumbo: 509-582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com