Dr. Hallie Ray Moore lived near the intersection of Cheshire Lane and West 43rd Street for about 15 years. But the owner of Oak Forest Veterinary Hospital often steered clear of it when driving to and from her house.
There are two lanes going in each direction on 43rd Street, and the median to the northwest of Cheshire is lined with trees that can make visibility challenging. Vehicles traveling in that direction regularly eclipse the posted speed limit of 35 mph, Moore said, and there also are potential traffic hazards to the southeast.
Churches are on opposite sides of 43rd just to the southeast of Cheshire, and a little further in that direction are two adjacent schools.
“It’s a known dangerous spot,” Moore said. “I would try to avoid going across that, because it scared me.”
Earlier this summer, a few years after she moved out of that home on Cheshire, Moore’s fears were realized. Her best friend since high school, who had recently moved into that same house, was killed while trying to cross 43rd from Cheshire.
Karen Yager, 46, died July 27 when her Honda Civic was struck on the driver’s side by a Jeep Wrangler driven by 28-year-old Esvin Crispin Aguilar, according to the Houston Police Department. Aguilar was charged with intoxication manslaughter for his role in the crash, and the HPD accident report also cited speeding as a contributing factor.
Moore said she plans to place a cross with Yager’s initials, K.A.Y., in the esplanade where her friend’s car came to rest. One of Moore’s most cherished possessions is a painting given to her by Yager, who was an artist, when Moore graduated from veterinary school.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. I pick up the phone to call her and I can’t,” Moore said. “She was my best friend since junior year of high school. I drove her to school. She was the bridesmaid in my wedding and the godmother to my daughters.”
Yager’s recent death has called attention to the dangers of 43rd Street, which residents of Oak Forest and Garden Oaks have long considered troublesome. Ten-year-old Anthony Dwight died while riding his bicycle a few blocks to the southeast in 2005, when he was struck by the driver of an SUV at the intersection of 43rd and Oak Forest Drive. A few blocks to the northwest of Cheshire and 43rd, where 43rd intersects with De Milo Drive, 18-year-old Kyle Eickenhorst died in a one-car crash in 2012.
According to data from the Houston Police Department, obtained by The Leader through an open records request, there have been a total of 381 traffic accidents on 43rd Street – between Watonga Boulevard to the west and North Shepherd Drive to the east – since 2015. Nearly half of those accidents occurred between Oak Forest Drive and Ella Boulevard, which bookend shopping centers on both sides of 43rd, while there were seven wrecks apiece at 43rd Street’s intersections with Cheshire and De Milo.
“It’s more dangerous than most streets,” said Candlelight Oaks resident Shawn Salyers, who owns MytiBurger at 2211 W. 43rd St. “People do speed down it and kind of treat it like a busier, wider street than it is. It’s residential, so you wouldn’t expect them to drive as fast as they do. It’s like a main thoroughfare.”
Too much, too fast
Tim Weltin, who works at Frank Black Middle School at the intersection of 43rd and Chantilly Lane and has a son who attends Oak Forest Elementary immediately to the southeast, also said speeding and aggressive driving are problems on 43rd. He and Salyers both said they have regularly been passed by other drivers while going the speed limit or even a little bit faster.
Data from Houston Municipal Court, also obtained through an open records request, corroborates what Salyers and Weltin have experienced anecdotally. From January 2015 through mid-August of this year, HPD officers issued a total of 1,580 speeding-related citations on 43rd between Watonga and Shepherd.
The majority of those tickets, 989, were issued in Garden Oaks between Ella and Shepherd, where there are large homes on both sides of 43rd and a school, Garden Oaks Montessori Magnet, a few blocks to the south. Another 584 speeding-related citations were issued between Ella and Rosslyn Road to the west, with that stretch including the Cheshire intersection as well as the Frank Black and Oak Forest Elementary campuses.
A total of 377 speeding tickets were issued in school zones during the aforementioned five-year period, according to the municipal court data. In the traffic accident reports from HPD, speed was cited as a factor in 87 of the 381 collisions.
“I think in between Ella and Shepherd is kind of a speedway a lot of times. I’ve seen people moving very rapidly,” Weltin said. “It’s increased, sadly and ironically, in the school zone where Oak Forest and Frank Black is. It’s becoming more and more of an issue.”
When asked why so many more speeding-related citations were issued between Ella and Shepherd, where there have been 68 accidents in the last five years compared to 211 on the stretch of 43rd immediately to the west, HPD spokesperson Victor Senties said traffic enforcement is generally driven by complaints from citizens. He also said there have been school-zone enforcement initiatives on 43rd.
Houston City Council member Abbie Kamin, who represents the area in District C, said street safety is a “top priority” for her office. She encouraged residents to report road safety concerns as part of the new “Vision Zero Initiative” within the Houston Planning Department, which Kamin said is actively seeking community input about dangerous intersections so it can prioritize investments for increased safety and mobility.
Feedback can be provided online at houstontx.gov/visionzero/index.html. The city’s “Vision Zero” initiative aims to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.
“I was deeply saddened and troubled to hear about the fatal accident this summer on 43rd,” Kamin said. “My office has been in touch with the Oak Forest Homeowners Association, who has requested additional traffic and speed patrols on this street.”
Oak Forest resident Mark Madeley, who lives near the intersection of Cheshire and 43rd and has seen three accidents there within the last two years, said he hopes the recent tragedy there leads to “meaningful change.” He offered a few suggestions, such as increased traffic enforcement, a traffic reconfiguration, widening the medians on 43rd and lowering the speed limit to 30 mph.
Martha Mears, who has served on the Oak Forest Homeowners Association board of directors since 2016, said overhanging tree limbs cause visibility problems along 43rd, particularly where the road curves near its intersection with Rosslyn. Trees and curves in the road also are an issue on 43rd between Ella and Shepherd, especially near Alba Road.
Moore said the curve near Rosslyn is especially problematic, because it’s where 43rd quickly transitions from a stretch of mostly businesses to a more residential area. She said she’d like for stoplights or stop signs to be installed somewhere on that part of 43rd, particularly as a new school year begins and more kids will soon be crossing the street.
While acknowledging that speeding is prevalent and traffic has increased, partly because contractors, construction crews and landscapers often service homes in the area, Mears said the responsibility for making streets such as 43rd safer lies with those who live in the neighborhood.
“We the residents are at fault,” she said. “We don’t always stop at stop signs. We don’t adhere to the speed limit. It’s not a one size fits all. We’re all in this together.”