Neighborhoods seek speed controls on dangerous residential streets

Investigations

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — More than 1,000 requests for speed humps are flooding Memphis city hall, with residents asking for one thing they believe will make their streets safer.

At one intersection in the Cooper-Young neighborhood, the story begins with a tragedy that shook Bill Branch and others who live nearby.

Walter “Red” Collins

His name was Walter Henry Collins Jr. Cameras captured Collins riding his motor scooter on the afternoon of July 21. Just moments later, a crippling noise echoed through the streets.

“I realized, a bad accident has happened,” Branch said.

Police say a truck struck Collins in the intersection of Nelson and South Cox, dragging him into a front yard. The truck pinned Collins and the scooter underneath for several minutes until first responders arrived. Sadly, he died at the hospital.

“It sort of affected our neighborhood in that, we all realized that people, some people not all people, drive really fast in Cooper-Young,” Branch said.

Police haven’t said what caused the crash, but neighbors believe this intersection has something to do with it. South Cox and Nelson has two stop signs, and connect to well-traveled roads like Southern and East Parkway.

WREG investigators found out the intersection has had a number of problems. Each year since 2017, more and more crashes were reported. Some resulted in injury, or were hit-and-runs.

While there weren’t any last year, this year saw the worst crash reported yet.

We compared the data to an intersection a few blocks over that neighbors told us was pretty comparable. South Barksdale and Oliver had about 50% fewer accidents than South Cox and Nelson.

On Facebook, the Cooper-Young Neighborhood Association posted there’s “been an ongoing concern” with drivers using streets as cut-throughs and the speeding that happens as a result.

The association offered to submit speed hump requests on behalf of residents. Folks around Cox and Nelson say they already started that process.

Neighbors started a petition demanding traffic safety changes like speed humps, something other neighborhoods are also fighting for.

Memphis Police say reckless driving and illegal drag racing increased since the pandemic, first fueled by boredom and fewer people on the road.

To help combat it, the city started installing more speed humps, like the ones on Riverside Drive.

The mayor’s office told us in a statement “as more speed humps have been installed, the program has become more popular leading to an increase in the number of requests each year.”

In 2018 there were 318 requests, and that number has increased every year. It more than tripled last year, and this year, already 1,000 requests have been submitted.

MPD says you shouldn’t wait to submit your request.

“I think there’s a waiting list,” said Col. Keith Watson. “It’s like a 24-month process, so the faster a neighborhood association or particular group of citizens wants to be involved in that program, the sooner the better.”

City officials say there are certain requirements that have to be met and a majority of neighbors have to sign off on it.

A handmade “Slow” sign at Nelson and Cox.

The city just added new signs at the intersection, including one that says “Cross traffic does not stop,” but no word on the speed humps.

So while neighbors around Cox and Nelson wait, they’ve made their own signs, begging traffic to slow down.

“You got to remember this is a neighborhood. Children, people walking their dogs,” Branch said.

Branch hopes something is done soon, for Collins’ sake. While he and neighbors didn’t know him until that day, he attended Collins’ funeral.

“I attended Walter’s funeral and met some of his family members, gosh what a great loss,” he said.

If you’re interested in the process of petitioning for speed humps, click here.

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